Pinellas County Park staff on high alert for brush fires

Posted at 6:44 PM, Apr 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-17 18:44:19-04

Pinellas County Parks are on high alert as fire danger looms across the state. Park rangers are begging you to stay safe and be careful lighting fires around your home or on your campsite. 

The rangers are working hard to protect the parks we all love.

Mike Agliano, a ranger at Fort De Soto Park in Tierra Verde is urging his team to spread a message to park visitors about staying safe.

“I’m stopping by to tell you about the increased fire danger around here,” he told camper Susan McLean.

Agliano is adamant about protecting Pinellas County’s most popular park.

"You can see how dry it is out here. The palm trees are brown and that's a sign that conditions could be dangerous. Please be careful if you light a fire today," he explained to campers.

More than 100 campers checked into Fort De Soto park Monday and every one was given a warning to watch their fires carefully. 

With conditions dangerously dry, and getting worse, people visiting the park can’t be too careful. 

McLean isn’t taking any chances — she packed a propane cooker and set up camp for her first night of a 6-month camping trip around the country, “and it’s been dry everywhere so I don’t think I’ll be doing a lot of camp fires,” she added.

Pinellas County hasn’t implemented a burn ban yet, but may consider it if conditions worsen, according to Steven Harper, parks and conservation resources operations manager.

Harper added “It’s very important for the public to understand the risk out there right now especially because it will get even worse in the near future. It’s getting drier and drier.”

Starting this week, Pinellas County will be working hard to remove hundreds of acres of pines and palmettos that could quickly spread any fire that starts in a park or preserve. 

Some larger parks, including Fort De Soto, have water trucks on standby.

Rangers are enlisting campers like Sam and Kathy Gray to step in when they see other park visitors breaking the rules.

“I think it would be our responsibility to say something, report it or take care of it because of it being so dry,” Kathy Gray explained.

The couple even brought a fire extinguisher to their campsite just in case.