Florida Governor Rick Scott declares a state of emergency for Florida due to the increased wildfire risk that exists this year.
The Florida Forest Service reports, as of April 11, there are 107 wildfires burning across the state, affecting over 23,000 acres.
The U.S. Drought Monitor reports moderate to severe drought conditions are expanding across Central and South Florida and abnormally dry conditions exist across Northeast Florida. Officials say the dry conditions are likely to worsen over the next several weeks.
A wildfire that ignited in February in southern Polk County remains active. It already burned 5,500 acres and destroyed twelve homes in the Indian Lake Estates neighborhood.
Governor Scott believes wildfires are an imminent danger to lives of Floridians and their property.
"I’ve continued to be in contact with Commissioner Putnam and local officials about the wildfires across the state and today I am declaring a state of emergency in Florida to ensure we are ready to respond to and prepare for these fires," says Scott.
Executive Order 17-120 calls for the Director of the Division of Emergency Management to active the state's Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan to cope with the wildfire threat. The order also gives the Adjutant General to activate the Florida National Guard, as needed, to battle fires until the drought conditions subside.
“Much of Central and South Florida are approaching drought-like conditions and the chances for wildfires are continuing to increase with hotter temperatures and low rainfall," says Scott. "This may only get worse as we enter the hotter summer months and it is crucial that we take every action right now to be prepared."
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says Florida's wildfire season has not been this active in six years.
"From St. George Island in the Panhandle to a wildfire just north of one of the world’s most famous tourist attractions in Orlando, we’re seeing that every area of our state is susceptible to wildfire," says Putnam. "May God bless our brave firefighters who are working tirelessly to protect us.”