Why Florida Wildfires Rarely Get as Bad as California’s

By  //  January 7, 2020

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As a Florida resident, you may be impacted by a wildfire this winter, Be safe and pay attention

With Florida now in the throes of the winter dry season, local residents have to be on the lookout for wildfires.

With Florida now in the throes of the winter dry season, local residents have to be on the lookout for wildfires.

They pop up every year at this time thanks to a lack of rainfall and persistent winter winds buffeting the peninsula from multiple directions.

The good news for Floridians is that wildfires in the Sunshine State rarely get as bad as those in California.

Structure fires are something entirely different. Every structure fire in every state can be a serious issue, which is why it’s important for commercial and residential property owners alike to look into effective fire extinguishers for all risks.

Yet wildfires are not as bad in some regions of the country as they are in others.

Humidity and Drought

One of the big differences between California and Florida is climate. California’s climate is considered a Mediterranean-type climate, which means the state stays dry most of the year.

Whatever rainfall it does receive is limited. Florida’s climate is subtropical. The Sunshine State has a regular rainy season that runs from early June through early November.

During the height of the rainy season, it is fairly routine to get rain every day of the week.

This makes a significant difference in terms of fuel. A lack of rain causes already dry fuel to dry out even further. Dry fuel is what wildfires thrive on, which is why California wildfires can be so devastating. They just do not have the rain to keep fuel from drying out.

Wind Conditions

Windy conditions at the peak of California’s fire season are extremely problematic. The well-known Santa Anna winds can gust up to 75 mph on a daily basis.

They easily fan the flames of rapidly spreading wildfires. Furthermore, those same winds can knock down power lines and topple dead or compromised trees. Such threats only increase the chances of a destructive wildfire.

In Florida, wind speeds rarely get that high except during hurricane or tropical storm conditions. So even though the wind does buffet the peninsula from multiple directions during the winter months, gusts are typically not strong enough to rapidly spread a wildfire.

Fuel Sources

California is at a disadvantage for another reason: the fuel it provides. California is home to several native bushes that are extremely flammable. As such, a lightning strike or a single spark can start a fire.

The fuel in Florida is much less conducive to spontaneous wildfires. It can still combust, but it is not nearly as flammable.

Florida’s combination of less flammable fuel and more rain helps to temper those wildfires that do start. Things are just the opposite in California.

Their lack of rain, combined with exceptionally flammable fuel, makes it too easy for wildfires to get going. And once a fire does ignite, it can spread very rapidly.

Intentional Land Management

All of what has been mentioned thus far does not guarantee that Florida will never experience wildfires. Again, the state sees numerous fires every year.

But another significant difference in Florida is the state’s intentional land management practices. Florida is known around the country for its practice of intentionally setting controlled fires for the purposes of managing vegetation.

Florida’s prescribed burn program is one of the most active in the country. Every year the Florida Forest Service, Forest Protection Bureau, and private landowners work together to intentionally burn roughly 2 million acres.

Every fire is controlled. Every fire is set intentionally to burn fuel that would otherwise contribute to more serious wildfires.

Prescribed burning in California pales by comparison. As such, fuel is allowed to accumulate over many years until finally ignited by a lightning strike or a stray spark.

Heeding Evacuation Orders

There are plenty of differences between California and Florida wildfires. Yet they all have one thing in common: serious wildfires can result in evacuation orders. When such orders are issued, citizens would be wise to heed them.

Wildfires have a habit of spreading very quickly once they get going, and the worst fires can jump from neighbourhood to neighbourhood in mere minutes.

Just a couple of years ago there were several significant wildfires in Florida that resulted in small-scale evacuations. Evacuations are normal in California, with every season targeting new communities and neighborhoods.

The point is this: do not be a hero. If an evacuation warning is ever issued where you live, get up and get out. Homes and personal property are replaceable; you are not.

Wildfires create problems in both California and Florida. But there are significant differences in the two states that make Florida’s fires not nearly as serious.

As a Florida resident, you may be impacted by a wildfire this winter. Be safe and pay attention to the news. If you’re concerned about an existing fire, you can always check with your local fire department or log on to the state FS Fire Information website.