Agri Leader

Dry weather means more possibility of wildfire

According to The National Weather Service, temperatures will be above normal through January while the rainfall is predicted to be below normal, ".which may promote drought and condition the environment for an active wildfire season through early 2014."

The last thing anyone wants to contend with after a holly jolly Christmas is a wildfire. That's why it's important to take precautionary measures now in order to help prevent wildfires, including properly disposing of live Christmas trees.

Although some may reside in areas where they can burn their Christmas trees, it's important to use precautionary measures. "Get to know the burn laws in your area before you strike that match," said Melissa Yunas, Wildfire Mitigation Specialist Florida Forest Service. Yunas explained that you should first check with Florida Forest Service officials to see if there are any restrictions in your area or if you need to first obtain a burn authorization. Keep in mind that if your fire escapes, you may be held liable for suppression costs and damage to the property of others, even with a burn authorization.

If you decide to burn your live Christmas tree, Florida Forest Service offers these outdoor burning tips:

Never leave a fire unattended, and make sure it is out before you leave.

Keep a shovel and water hose handy.

Don't burn on windy days or when the humidity is below 35 percent.

Your fire must be contained to an eight foot diameter pile or non-combustible barrel and must be at least 25 feet from forests, 25 feet from your house, 50 feet from a paved public road and 150 feet from other occupied buildings

Yunas explained that it might be best to consider recycling, or mulching your Christmas tree instead of burning it, in order to reduce the chance of sparking a wildfire. Christmas trees can be taken out to the curb where they are then transported to the city's landfill and ground up for mulch.

According to the city's website, smaller green items such as leaves, grass clippings, and pine needles should be bagged, while larger branches and limbs (no more than six feet in length and no larger than six inches in diameter) may be piled at curbside for pickup.

Especially with the drought conditions, precautionary measures against wildfires should be taken in and around your home in order to help prevent them from starting or spreading. For one, make sure you keep the surface and area beneath decks, sheds, propane tanks and boats free of debris, leaves and flammable vegetation.

A good rule of thumb is to maintain a three to five foot space around your house that is "fuel free", and also keep a 30-foot space between your house and the wooded area. Be sure to clean out the debris and leaves from gutters and downspouts, as well as atop of the roof. Also, remove any dead trees or shrubs from your property. Make sure you remove vines from trees and prune them so that the lowest branches are six to 10 feet from the ground, that way the fire cannot climb upwards as easily. Don't forget to water and mow the lawn regularly. Ensure that the roads and driveways are free of overhanging branches and wide enough (14 feet) to accommodate emergency vehicles. Lastly, make sure your home address is clearly marked on your home and mailbox so that firefighters can easily find your property.

"If you spot a wildfire, call 9-1-1," said Yunas who explained that Florida Forest Service has mutual aid radios with local fire departments and can hear the tone to respond to the wildfire.

For more information:

The City of Sebring Yard Waste Collection


City of Sebring Fire Department

301 North Mango Street


Florida Forest Service

Okeechobee District

(Okeechobee, Highlands, Martin,

Indian River, St. Lucie, Glades)