At this morning’s countywide fire briefing, Fire Chief Don Petito called fire and weather conditions in Flagler County “fluid.”
As a result of yesterday’s thunderstorms, he said, Flagler now has an additional seven lightning-caused brushfires to contend with. The Espanola fire has grown an extra 200 acres but is still maintained within its control lines. The White Eagle fire is “acting up” and started re-burning this morning.
“The weather conditions are constantly changing, and they’re definitely not cooperating,” Petito said. “So our plans are changing at a very rapid rate … We say we have these fires under control one minute, and the next minute they’re burning.”
He went on to announce that Gov. Rick Scott’s signing of a State of Emergency declaration yesterday means that Flagler will soon see additional resources at its disposal.
“The National Guard will be able to help us,” he said. “That’s the first step.”
He also said that Virginia and Mississippi, as well as Florida’s Red Team, are currently offering aid. Virginia and Mississippi have both contributed Strike Teams of five F-550, 400-gallon, two-man engines apiece, which are capable of traveling deeper into the woods to fight and mop up smaller fires.
Flagler has been fighting wildfires for three months. To date, it has spent approximately $300,000 on man hours, supplies, repairs and fuel.
“This is definitely not an inexpensive proposition,” Petito said.
He also reported that Volusia is suffering a large fire in the southern portion of its county. “We know that resources will probably be shifted there a little bit.” Other details are limited at this point.
There are currently 3,213 active wildfires in Florida; 186,963 acres of woodland statewide have burned.
Florida Grey Team Commander Marty Senterfitt took the podium to laud county employees and their continued cooperation with the Division of Forestry.
“This problem is bigger than any one agency, any one person. It’s even bigger than any one county,” he said. “We have a statewide state of emergency for a reason … (But) my biggest challenge … has been trying to pull the workers back a little bit. Because they’re working themselves to exhaustion … They’re giving you more than 100%.”
He advised to take the time to thank a firefighter.
Scott will hold a 4 p.m. press conference, briefing Flagler on the state’s projected assistance in the ongoing firefight, at the Emergency Services Building.