With wildfire season upon the state, the Florida Forest Service wants all families to prepare themselves and their homes now.
The FFS Myakka River District says many FFS districts along with fire departments are urging people to follow the “Ready, Set, Go!” program developed by the International Associate of Fire Chiefs.
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The steps in the program are similar to how Floridians prepare for hurricanes. Patrick Mahoney, the Mitigation Wildlife Specialist for the Florida Forest Service Myakka River District, says everyone in the state can be in the “ready” phase right now.
The “ready” section includes preparing your house: trim bushes down, clean your roof, and create a defensible space around your home. This will allow crews easy access around your home to protect it, should a wildfire get close.
“In Florida, we go from high fire activity right into hurricane season. That “to-go” kit should be year-round. Because we live in Florida, we either have fires or hurricanes,” said Mahoney.
The go-kits should include things like medicine, important documents (or copies of), chargers, and cash.
During the "ready" phase, families should also develop an evacuation route, a plan B for that route, and a plan for their pets.
“The survival kit for the hurricane is the same thing as for the wildfire. You have got to make sure you have it where you can grab it quickly because with a hurricane you have 14 days know that it is possibly heading our way, with wildfires you have minutes,” said Mahoney.
The "set" part of the plan is staying vigilant with your house and family already when there is a fire in the area and potential for evacuation.
"Go" is when crews give your family an evacuation notice and you all must leave immediately. Mahoney said if you are "ready" and "set" the "go" will be much easier because you already planned so you know what to do. This method uses the same strategies as most people do to prepare themselves and their houses for hurricanes.
Mahoney said this year, forest service officials are concerned that debris from Hurricane Irma will play a big factor in wildfire season.
“A lot of people think well the hurricane debris has been picked up months ago because it isn't around me. In the woods — that’s where the hurricane debris is still there. It’s not been cleaned up, so we have downed trees and overgrown vegetation. We have had a couple of freezes so with those two things it makes fighting a fire even harder,” said Mahoney.
"Remember, an ember can travel up to a mile away from the fire, under the right conditions," reminded Mahoney.
To learn more about the "Ready, Set, Go!" program click HERE.