Sunshine State continues to sizzle, Scott and Cabinet are toldby John Kennedy | June 16th, 2011
Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet were briefed Thursday on the state’s battle against wildfires, which have engulfed 333,000 acres and have forced the deployment of 2,000 firefighters and emergency workers, officials said.
State forestry officials said 422 fires were blazing on state and federal land in Florida, with some of the worst in western Flagler County, Volusia County and near the border between Alachua and Bradford counties.
Drought is plaguing most of the state. But with late afternoon and evening rain occasionally easing the dryness, lightning is increasing the fire threat, said Jim Karels, director of the Florida Division of Forestry
“How we get out of these events is kind of a checkerboard process,” Karels said. “We get a little bit of rain here and there, we get lightning, we fight the fires. But ideally those afternoon showers build up to the 40 percent to 50 percent chance that you normally see in the summer. And that tends to get us out of it in a week or two. But we’ve got to get that consistently. And we’re not there yet.”
High temperatures continue to sit heavy on the state.
Tallahassee on Wednesday reached its all-time high recorded temperature when the National Weather Service reported a 105F reading in mid-afternoon, shortly before thunderstorms pounded the city with rain and nickel-sized hail.
As bad as the wildfires are, however, Karels said the state was still well below record setting blazes. In 1981, 600,000 acres was on fire; in 1998, the last big year of wildfires, 500,000 acres burned and evacuations were ordered for all of Flagler County.
That year, fireworks sales also were banned statewide because of fires.
“I don’t think it will have any effect on 4th of July activities,” Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said of the latest threat. “But the next two weeks will decide.”