NORTH PORT — The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag warning for west central Florida for today, Thursday, March 14, which includes Sarasota County and the city of North Port. The warning is issued until 8 p.m. tonight. A Red Flag warning is issued when conditions are very favorable for the spread of wildfire within a 24-hour period. Today, the winds are northerly at 10-15 mph, with the humidity below 35 percent. The lowest humidity will be between 18 and 25 percent for up to nine hours. These conditions are likely to continue through the weekend. Any fires that develop will likely spread rapidly, fire officials say. Although we have had a little rain this week, the Keetch-Byrum Drought Index is between 650 and 700, which is approaching the extremely dangerous category. The drought index is a scale of wildfire danger from zero (no danger) to 800 (extreme danger). You can see more information on the Keetch-Byrum Index at http://flame.fldof.com/fire_weather/KBDI/index.html.
“With little rainfall, low humidity and gusty winds, weather conditions in our area are perfect for the rapid start and spread of wildfire. Although we had a little rain this week it was not nearly enough to ward off these dangerous fire conditions,” said North Port Deputy Fire Chief Scott Titus. With the wildfire danger being so high, fire officials are asking the public to please be vigilant. Report any open burning by calling 911. Be extremely cautious when leaving your car idling along the side of the road – the grass underneath your car can start on fire quickly. ATV riders who enjoy riding on trails or in the woods should be careful with hot exhaust pipes and sparks when they ride. Never discard cigarettes or other lighted materials out the window while driving. Although Florida is the lightning capital of the U.S., Forestry officials say that over 20 percent of all wildfires in Florida are the result of human carelessness or arson.
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