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Hernando wildfire mostly contained, but firefighters stay alert

RIDGE MANOR — Although a 650-acre brush fire in the Withlacoochee State Forest is 85 percent contained, the state Division of Forestry says it will be keeping several teams of firefighters on duty through the weekend should conditions cause the blaze to reignite.

State wildfire prevention specialist Don Ruths said Thursday that dry weather coupled with moderately strong daytime winds increase the potential for re-ignition.

Ruths said that a strike team of five brush trucks will patrol the area throughout the weekend.

"We're mostly mopping up now and looking into possible trouble areas," he said. "Our biggest concern is whether the wind will pick up."

The National Weather Service predicts wind gusts in Hernando County could be as high as 24 mph today, with less than a 10 percent chance of rain. However, dry conditions should subside Saturday evening with an approaching cold front that will bring a 50 percent chance of rain.

State officials still have not determined the cause of the blaze, which broke out Sunday morning near Richloam Clay Sink Road, just off State Road 50 in east Hernando. However, Gerry LaCavera, a wildfire mitigation coordinator for the state, said that it was unlikely that the fire was ignited by natural causes.

March through May is considered the prime brush fire season in Central Florida. Outdoor burn bans have been issued in 17 counties, including Hernando, Pasco, Citrus and Sumter.

Logan Neill can be reached at lneill@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1435.

Hernando wildfire mostly contained, but firefighters stay alert 03/26/09 [Last modified: Thursday, March 26, 2009 7:26pm]
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