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Even after rain, wildfire danger remains in Northeast Florida

10:32 PM, Apr 4, 2013   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- After several days worth of rain moved through Northeast Florida, one would think the potential for wildfires would be low, but fire officials say that's not the case.

"We're actually below average as far as dryness for this time of year. So it looks good on paper but unfortunately, that's not the main issue when it comes to wildfire danger," said Annaleasa Winter, wildfire mitigation specialist for the Florida Forest Service. "We're always looking at wind and relative humidity and those issues are what we have to deal with."

The wind and low humidity is what pushed Tuesday's controlled burn on the Northside that jumped containment lines.

The Florida Forest Service authorized the burn based on National Weather Service predictions that included: A maximum temperature of 78 degrees, minimum humidity at 30 percent and winds moving Northeast at nine miles per hour.

"It's called residence time: You've got to have enough wind to keep that fire moving so it doesn't stay in one place too long of a time," said Winter.

But weather is unpredictable and the wind gusts were stronger than forecast.

So while Pumpkin Hill fire is 97 percent contained as of Thursday, the potential for wildfires is greater than the half-inch of rain Northern Florida received this week, after a late freeze created fine dead fuel on the ground.

"Whatever moisture they have in them is dependent on the relative humidity.  So if you take a piece of pine straw in the morning and try to break it, it will be soft and malleable because it's humid in the mornings.  In the afternoon at 2 o'clock if you bend that same piece of pine straw it will break because it's very dry."

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