Overview of the Hazard
A wildfire is any free burning, uncontainable wildland fire not prescribed for the area which consumes the natural fuels and spreads in response to its environment. The most at-risk locations are areas where development has occurred or is occurring at the edge of previously undeveloped vegetated areas, such as forests, grasslands, wetlands, etc.
Wildfire Quick Facts
- Brevard County is home to thousands of residents who enjoy the area's beautiful scenery and warm climate. But few people realize that these qualities also create severe wildfire conditions.
- Each year, thousands of acres of wildland are destroyed by fires that can erupt at any time of the year from a variety of causes, including arson, lightning and debris burning.
- As our community grows, fire protection becomes everyone's responsibility.
Brevard County is susceptible to wildfires throughout the year, particularly during the months with minimal rainfall amounts (December through April). The major causes of brush and forest fires are due to lightning, human negligence, or cases of criminal mischief, and occurs during the months with higher thunderstorm activities. In recent years, homes and businesses have been threatened by encroaching wildfires. Late winter and spring also are prime periods for wildfires, fueled by strong winds and a lack of rainfall during that same time frame. Brevard County has a considerable amount of undeveloped area with prime fuel source for fires.
Historical Events in Brevard County Include:
- During the 1990s, the County was impacted by the disastrous wildfires brought on by drought that swept through the region. Most notable was the summer of 1998 during which over 500,000 acres burned statewide. A total of 150,000 acres burned in Brevard County and 32 homes and 5 businesses were lost.
- More recently, the Mother’s Day fires of 2008 accounted for $34 million in damage in Palm Bay alone where 33 homes were destroyed and 236 damaged. In Malabar, two homes, each valued at $250,000 were destroyed. In total, over 10,000 acres were destroyed during the event; however; it is likely that more damage was avoided due to prescribed burning in the Jordan Scrub Sanctuary and the Micco Scrub Sanctuary three months prior to the fires.
- In spring 2011, the Iron Horse Fire burned nearly 17,500 acres across Brevard and Volusia counties and destroyed one mobile home and two hunting camps. Two firefighters were injured putting out the hot spots and heavy smoke forced the closure of Interstate 95 between State Road 442 and SR-46 for a period of time.
What Would You Do?
According to ready.gov, here are some actions you can take to protect yourself and your property before a wildfire:
- Know your risks - Access the Brevard County Fire Rescue Webpage for additional details regarding protection of your family and property, as well as the full Fire Danger Index Rating Key
- Build a kit
- Have a plan
- Stay informed
Prepare Your Home
- Regularly clean the roof and gutters.
- Maintain an area approximately 30’ away from you home that is free of anything that will burn, such as wood piles, dried leaves, newspapers and other brush.
- Connect garden hoses long enough to reach any area of the home and fill garbage cans, tubs, or other large containers with water.
- Review your homeowner's insurance policy and also prepare/update a list of your home's contents.
Understand the Nationals Weather Service Fire Weather Watch/ Red Flag Warnings
- The Red Flag Warning is designed to provide land management agencies warning of potentially hazardous fire weather conditions that are imminent or already occurring.
- A red flag warning is issued based on the most hazardous weather associated with the largest ten percent of fires. The following weather conditions will prompt the issuance of a red flag warning: Relative humidity below 35% AND wind speed of 15 mph or greater AND Energy Release Component (Fuel Model G) of 27 or higher or Relative humidity below 35% for four hours or more AND Energy Release Component (Fuel Model G) of 37 or higher.
- A Fire Weather Watch is designed to alert those agencies to possible red flag conditions in the future.
- The National Weather Service does not make any management decisions as a result of the Watch or Warning. Specific actions are determined by user agencies.
ready.gov provides the following recommended safety tips:
- If you see a wildfire and haven't received evacuation orders yet, call 9-1-1. Don't assume that someone else has already called.
- If ordered to evacuate during a wildfire, do it immediately- make sure and tell someone where you are going and when you have arrived.
- If you or someone you are with has been burned, call 9-1-1 or seek help immediately; cool and cover burns to reduce chance of further injury or infection.
The CDC Website provides information regarding the effects of Wildfire Smoke
According to ready.gov, here are some suggested actions you can take to protect yourself and your property after a wildfire:
- Return home only when authorities say it is safe.
- For several hours after the fire, maintain a "fire watch." Check and re-check for smoke, sparks or hidden embers throughout the house, including the roof and the attic.
- Use caution when entering burned areas as hazards may still exist, including hot spots, which can flare up without warning. Evacuate immediately if you smell smoke.
Cleaning Your Home
- Wear a NIOSH certified-respirator (dust mask) and wet debris down to minimize breathing dust particles.
- Discard any food that has been exposed to heat, smoke or soot.
- Do NOT use water that you think may be contaminated to wash dishes, brush teeth, prepare food, wash hands, or to make ice or baby formula.
- Photograph damage to your property for insurance purposes.