TEMPERATURE EXTREMES AND WILDFIRES

Overview

Florida can experience a wide range of temperatures, from dangerously hot to dangerously cold, and it is important for everyone to stay safe during periods of
temperature extremes.

Usually, it is not the high temperatures that make summer conditions in Florida dangerous but the humidity, or amount of moisture in the air. When Florida’s high humidity combines with warm temperatures, it may feel hotter outside than it really is. This is called the heat index.

High heat index values limit the body’s ability to cool through sweating. When the heat index exceeds 105° F, conditions can become dangerous for people and animals. Sunstroke, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are all risks associated with high heat indices. The National Weather Service will issue heat advisories and warnings when the heat index is forecast to reach dangerous levels.

Hot Weather Safety

  • Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing to help reflect heat and sunlight, and help your body maintain its normal temperature.
  • Slow down and limit outdoor activities. Avoid outdoor events during the hottest part of the day (11 am–5 pm). Remain in air-conditioned places to reduce your exposure to the heat.
  • Drink plenty of water, even if you don’t feel thirsty. People can become dehydrated without realizing it. Stay away from highly sugared or carbonated drinks.
  • Check on elders, persons with disabilities, children and animals during periods of prolonged heat.
  • Protect your skin with sunscreen; also wear sunglasses and a hat, or carry an umbrella to provide shade.

Cold weather outbreaks may occur in Florida at least once a year, and are caused by strong cold fronts that move through the state. These can produce below freezing temperatures and strong winds.

When strong winds combine with cold temperatures, the heat loss from a person’s skin can be accelerated. This Wind Chill can make the outside temperature feel much colder than it really is. In addition, freezing temperatures can kill crops, plants and even fish. The National Weather Service will issue wind chill advisories/warnings, along with freeze advisories/warnings, when cold weather threatens an area.

Cold Weather Safety

When cold weather is in the forecast, it is important to remember the “5 P’s of Cold Weather Safety.”

  • Protect People: Remember to dress in layers and wear a hat and gloves. It is important to try to stay out of the wind and to stay dry. Remember to check on young children and elders who are the most sensitive to cold weather.
  • Protect Pets: If cold weather is in the forecast, be sure to bring outdoor pets inside or give them a warm shelter.
  • Protect Plants: Cover cold-sensitive plants to protect them from the dangerous temperatures.
  • Protect Pipes: Cover pipes and allow outdoor faucets to slowly drip to prevent them from freezing and breaking.
  • Practice Fire Safety: Use safe-heating sources indoors. Do not use fuel-burning devices such as grills; they release carbon monoxide, which is a deadly gas. Also, make sure to use space heaters according to their instructions and be attentive to open flames.

Wildfire Safety

While wildfires can start at any time of the year, the state sees a peak of activity during the early, colder part of the year – beginning in January and continuing until early to mid-June. A typical year in Florida will see over 4,600 fires burn nearly 110,000 acres of land. Since 2002, more than two million acres
of forest land have been burned by wildfires.

While there are natural ways a wildfire can be ignited, most wildfires are started by humans. The most common causes of human-started fires are arson and yard waste burns that get out of control. Fires can also be caused by discarding a cigarette that has not been fully extinguished. Other causes of wildfires include campfires and bonfires not properly extinguished or windy conditions that may take hot embers from the fire to another location. The stronger the wind and the drier the ground, the faster fires will spread. Fire Weather Watches and Red Flag Warnings are issued by the National Weather Service to alert people to hazardous weather conditions that may add to the wildfire danger. Wildfires are bad fires that can cause major environmental, social and economic damages. Prescribed fires are good fires that reduce the hazardous accumulations of brush to lower the risk of loss to homes, businesses, recreation areas and forests when wildfires occur.

Prescribed fire also controls forest tree diseases and recycles nutrients in the soil. Wildfires often begin unnoticed. They spread quickly, igniting grasses, trees and homes. Reduce your risk by preparing now – before wildfire strikes. Meet with your family to decide what to do and where to go if wildfires threaten your area. Find out how you can promote and practice wildfire safety by going to www.Firewise.com and www.floridaforestservice.com/wildfire/information.html.