Wildfires scorch parts of Florida; gov. declares emergency

Several fires reported in the Indian Lake Estates area earlier in the week are under investigation as officials from the Florida Forest Service say the blazes appear to be suspicious in nature.

On Tuesday, the Cabinet kicked-off a pre-planned "wildfire awareness week" with Gov. Rick Scott issuing an executive order that declared a state of emergency across Florida due to the increased wildfires.

A wildfire that started Tuesday afternoon near railroad tracks is now estimated to have burned around 190 acres. The Florida Forest Service is also on Twitter. That's a dramatic increase over a year ago, when there were just 20 through April 9, according to statistics from the Florida Forest Service.

Authorities lightning set off a wildfire in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and it has continued to spread, burning through more than 9 square miles (23 square kilometers) of swamp and forestland near the Georgia-Florida state line.

"That's the focus of firefighting efforts at this time, to make sure those structures are protected and made safe, that part of the fire is secured", MacDonald said.

For a map of active wildfires in the state, go to freshfromflorida.com.

And the two-month prognosis is for continued dry conditions.

"We had to evacuate campgrounds and the preserve is closed north of I-75", said Michelle Burnett, a public information officer handling the Cowbell fire.

Hernando County Emergency Management will continue to monitor the situation.

About 13 percent of Florida is considered in a severe drought, with 29 percent in a moderate drought and 25 percent abnormally dry, according to a Thursday report from the National Drought Mitigation Center.

The tally includes Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties. "For the Treasure Coast, we are at a 300 percent increase for wildfires from past year". It is expected that weather conditions will deteriorate throughout the day causing the fire to continue and grow.

"You can have so much growth it actually helps us", said Karels.

  • Leroy Wright