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Brush Fire Dangers in Polk Persist


Published on Apr 12, 2021


Bartow, Fla. (April 12, 2021) — Despite weekend thunderstorms, the chances for significant brush fires in Polk County continues.

Polk’s firefighters were called to 107 brush fires in March, up 65 percent from 65 brush fires in February and fire crews continue to be dispatched daily to brush fires throughout Polk this month.

“We are definitely in the thick of brush fire season,” Polk County Fire Chief Rob Weech said. “Without significant rain, the fire conditions will continue to worsen and that means we need everyone’s help to reduce the chances of brush fires from happening.”

A lack of rain in March and this month aren’t helping the problem. During a normal year, Polk’s rainfall totals in March are usually between 3 to 4 inches; however, most of the county throughout the month received less than an inch, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

While a burn ban has not been issued by the county, one could be enacted if more than 50 percent of the county has an average of more than 500 on the Keetch-Byram Drought Index and other local circumstances that could increase the likelihood of uncontrolled fires. The Polk County Board of County Commissioners would then need to ratify the ban by resolution at its next regular meeting.

Most of Polk currently scores within the 300 to 500 range on the drought index, a reference scale used by the Florida Forest Service to estimate the dryness of the soil and duff layers. Other parts, mostly in the southeastern portions of Polk, are already registering between a score of 500 to 550, which is extremely dry.

Here are a few tips that can help reduce the chances of a brush fire from igniting:

  • Properly secure trailer safety chains to prevent them sparking on asphalt;
  • Dispose of cigarette butts properly – not tossed out of vehicle windows;
  • Do not park a hot vehicle over dry vegetation;
  • Obey local laws regarding open fires, including campfires;
  • Carefully dispose of hot charcoal;
  • Never leave a fire unattended, especially overnight;
  • Do not burn anything outside on windy days;
  • Don’t spill gasoline or motor oil on grass or other dried vegetation;
  • Make sure spark arrestors are properly in place on tractors, off-road vehicles and chain saw equipment used in wooded areas; and
  • Keep a sufficient water source nearby when grilling or starting a campfire.