This time of year in Southwest Florida often leads to fire hazard warnings, particularly when the breeze is blowing and there is nary a cloud in the sky.
Notifications have been issued for Southwest Florida by FEMA in the last few weeks, and several incidents around Cape Haze Peninsula have led to homes getting too close for comfort to wildfires.
Here are some tips to help to protect your home:
• Never throw cigar or cigarette butts on the ground. Make sure they are extinguished before disposing of them.
• This is not the time for yard waste fires or bonfires. One small piece of ember or burning material from a fire can travel and spread.
• Stow flammable objects at least 30 feet away from the home.
• Maintain a 10-foot distance between the house and any foliage. If you have a vacant lot next to your house, you are allowed a 10-foot cutback.
• Keep tree limbs trimmed at least 10 feet above the ground to prevent ladder fuels. Ditto with branches hanging within 10 feet of your roof, chimney, or house.
• Water your yard as much as you can to avoid dry grass that is vulnerable to ignition.
• Install nonflammable vegetation and mulch instead of their flammable counterparts. Pine needles, pine bark and large mulched areas are fire-friendly, so avoid them.
• Plant flowers, vegetables and other growth in small, irregular groups instead of large masses.
• Don’t leave your vehicle running in a location where there is foliage or grass under your car.
• Rake dead leaves and twigs.
If you are in an area that is threatened by fire, here are some evacuation tips:
• Leave your home as quickly as possible – you may not have much time
• Turn on exterior and interior lights to make the house visible to firefighters.
• Close doors, windows, shutters, blinds, vents, eaves and pet doors.
• Wear gloves and use a handkerchief to protect your face.
• Grab outdoor hoses and fill pools, hot tubs and large outdoor containers with water.
• Turn sprinklers on and keep them running.
(Photo from a brush fire very close to homes in South Gulf Cove recently. Photo credit Charlotte County Fire)