With 310 active wildfires burning approximately 115,583 acres statewide, Florida Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency.
The order places all local firefighting resources in the hands of the state for the most efficient firefighting. It gives broad authority to those in charge of the effort, stating that laws and statutes may need to be waived temporarily.
Statewide, the Keetch-Byram Drought Index is 649 (0 represents saturated soil and vegetation conditions; 800 represents extremely dry soil and vegetation conditions). The highest drought index is in Northwest Florida and along the Florida East Coast. Flagler’s index was 701 earlier today, before the rains.
Conditions are likely to worsen through the next few weeks, according to the statement.
The release also mentions the Espanola Fire in Flagler County. The fire has been burning since May 31 and is now about 3,400 acres.
A large brush fire in the Okefenokee Swamp area of southern Georgia has moved into Baker County in Florida and has burned an estimated 168,423 acres, including 600 acres in Florida.
Multiple fires in Levy County have been burning since April 26 and have now burned an estimated 4,594 acres.
A brush fire in the Everglades area of inland Miami-Dade near the Miccosukee Indian Reservation has been burning since June 5 and has now burned an estimated 68,000 acres.
Scott’s statement continues: “Precautions may be needed to protect the lives and property of the people in threatened communities, the environment, and the general welfare of the state of Florida; NOW, THEREFORE, I, RICK SCOTT, as Governor of Florida … declare that the ongoing danger of wildfires continues to threaten the State of Florida with a major disaster, and that as a consequence of this danger a state of emergency exists in the State of Florida.”
Scott designated the director of the Division of Emergency Management as the State Coordinating Officer and delegated to the Division of Emergency Management the overall authority to coordinate the assignment of firefighting support missions requested by the Division of Forestry.
The statement continues: “All state, regional, and local governmental agencies shall place any and all available resources under the direction of the State Coordinating Officer to support the Division of Forestry and other firefighting agencies in controlling the wildfires."
Florida will also seek federal assistance as needed.
See the June 16 edition of the Palm Coast Observer for more.