A prolonged dry spell in South Florida has state officials warning residents that wildfire activity is at its highest level since 2011 and more than double what was experienced in 2016.
This year, 59 wildfires were recorded in the Everglades District, which includes Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.
That’s compared to just 17 during the previous year.
“The continued dry and windy conditions have resulted in an increase of wildfires throughout the district and until we begin to get sufficient rainfall we anticipate this trend to continue,” said Scott Peterich, wildfire mitigation specialist in Palm Beach County.
As of this morning, more than 60 active wildfires were burning statewide, according to an interactive Florida Department of Agriculture map.
In Palm Beach County, which is down 7.2 inches of rain since the dry season began in November, the fire danger today is at a moderate level.
But the more precise Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) continues to remain high. The index ranks dryness of the soil and duff layers on a 0 to 800 scale with 0 being saturated and 800 being desert-like.
Anything above 600 is associated with more severe drought and an increase in intense wildfires.
Palm Beach County’s mean index Monday was 535, but it ranged from 339 to 649, with the driest areas in western areas of the county.
Peterich recommends people living near wildland areas keep buffer zones of 30 feet around there homes that are clear of flammable vegetation.
Leaves, pine needles and twigs should be removed from roofs and gutters.