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Hernando warned about spring wildfires

Hernando County Fire Rescue Capt. James Chorvat douses the hot spots from a wildfire last spring along Mondon Hill Road.

DANNY GHITIS | Times (2007)

Hernando County Fire Rescue Capt. James Chorvat douses the hot spots from a wildfire last spring along Mondon Hill Road.

BROOKSVILLE — Despite the welcome rainfall in recent weeks, fire officials are warning residents not to forget that drought-like conditions still exist in Hernando County.

And with so much of the county's woods dry, conditions are ripe for a very dangerous spring wildfire season.

That's why each weekend through the end of April representatives from the state Division of Forestry and Hernando County Fire Rescue will be going door to door through rural areas of the county to educate property owners on ways to protect their homes from fire.

"While there is nothing we can do about natural factors that cause wildfires, we believe we can eliminate the human factors," said Don Ruths, wildfire mitigation specialist with the Division of Forestry.

"Our hope is that people will learn to be more fire wise when it comes to their home."

For the past two years, much of Central Florida has suffered from below average rainfall. Though Hernando County has received about 6 accumulated inches of rainfall since January, Ruths said it has scarcely made a dent in drought-like conditions.

Worse, fire officials fear that residents may become complacent as the dry, spring season approaches.

"As it gets warmer, things can dry up very quickly," said Hernando County Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Frank DeFrancesco. "Once the right conditions are in place, it doesn't take much for a wildfire to start."

Ruths said the door-to-door campaign focuses mainly on areas of the county where dense brush is concentrated, including Ridge Manor in eastern Hernando and other communities such as Lake in the Woods, Royal Highlands, Glen Lakes and The Heather.

In addition to handing out fire prevention literature, fire personnel will talk to property owners about landscape conditions that may encourage the spread of wildfire.

"We realize it can be a hard sell," Ruths said. "Some property owners purposely let thick brush grow up around their houses for privacy. The problem is that when it dries out, it can become a huge hazard."

Logan Neill can be reached at lneill@sptimes.com.

>>Protect yourself

Homeowner tips for preventing wildfires

• Maintain at least a 30-foot clear perimeter between dense woods and structures.

• Prune tree branches 6-10 feet from the ground and remove any dead plant material around all structures.

• Use fire-resistant materials for roof and exterior construction.

• Burn yard waste in the morning before winds rise. Always keep a water hose and shovel handy in case the fire escapes.

Hernando warned about spring wildfires 03/24/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 26, 2008 9:40am]
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