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Politics

Scott Declares State of Emergency as Wildfires Ravage Central Florida

April 11, 2017 - 10:45am

Florida has declared a state of emergency in Florida as wildfires rage on across the state, devastating wildlife and wreaking havoc on acres of land in Central Florida this week.

Over 100 active wildfires are currently burning in Florida as a drought and high temperatures create the perfect environment for an environmental catastrophe in Florida. 

On Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott responded, swiftly issuing an executive order declaring a state of emergency in Florida. 

“Today I am declaring a state of emergency in Florida to ensure we are ready to respond to and prepare for these fires,” Scott said in a statement. 

Heavy smoke shut down roads in Central Florida on Monday as firefighters tirelessly tried to extinguish the flames.

“As wildfires impact our state, our incredible firefighters and first responders have bravely rushed to aid our communities and worked tirelessly to protect our homes and families,” Scott said. 

Wildfires continue to spread across the Sunshine State in part due to hotter and drier conditions than normal in Florida. 

Drought and high winds only add to the devastating effects of the fires, with forecasts predicting temperatures will only get hotter and more dire in Florida during the coming months.

Wildfires have already burned more than 250 percent more acreage during the first three months of 2017 than the same time period last year. 

According to the Florida Forest Service, the active wildfires currently span more than 20,000 acres statewide.

The largest fire is blazing through Big Cypress National Preserve off of Interstate 75, where the flames have ravaged more than 8,000 acres of land. 

Another fire in Hernando County, sparked by lightning, had burned 1,000 acres of land as of Monday afternoon.

Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam said Florida hasn’t seen this active of a wildfire season since 2011. 

“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,” Putnam said.

Scott and Putnam traveled to Collier County to survey the impact of one of the wildfires last month.

The state of emergency, the governor said, would ensure Florida could respond timely and effectively to the fires.

“It is incredibly important that wildfire response is swift and deliberate and this state of emergency will make it easier for our state, regional and local agencies to quickly work together to protect our families, visitors and communities,” he said. 

 

Reach reporter Allison Nielsen by email at allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen.

 

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