A prolonged dry spell has put all of South Florida at an escalated risk of wildfire with blazes already burning in the Treasure Coast and Palm Beach County.
Palm Beach County Fire Rescue crews are at a brush fire near Lantana Road and Florida’s Turnpike this morning, while Interstate 95 in Indian River County was shut down temporarily overnight because of heavy smoke from wildfires.
The Okeechobee district of the Florida Forest Service said 20 homes were saved from a fast-moving fire in St. Lucie County that burned at least 80 acres.
More than 400 acres burned in Indian River County Wednesday from four wildfires that were started by lightning strikes from Tuesday’s storms.
Melissa Yunas, a Florida Forest Service fire mitigation specialist, said fire crews will be checking on, and mopping up, fires this morning.
About 40 wildfires are burning statewide, according to the Florida Forest Service.
A new drought monitor report is expected this morning. Last week, the first signs of drought were noted in Palm Beach County. At Palm Beach International Airport, just 8.78 inches of rain has been measured since Nov. 1.
That’s half of what is normal for this time in the dry season.
The National Weather Service in Miami had Palm Beach County under a rare red flag fire warning Wednesday because of gusty winds. Lower winds today allowed the warning to expire.
The Keetch-Byram Drought Index used by the Florida Forest Service was at 551 this morning. Typically, anything over 600 is associated with drought conditions.
The index measures drought on a 0-to-800 scale with 800 being desert-like and 0 being saturated ground.
There is no rain in the forecast until Tuesday, and then it’s only a 20 percent chance.