A lack of rain has left extremely dry conditions all over Northeast Florida. | Dan Scanlan, Jacksonville TodayA lack of rain has left extremely dry conditions all over Northeast Florida. | Dan Scanlan, Jacksonville Today
A lack of rain has left extremely dry conditions all over Northeast Florida. | Dan Scanlan, Jacksonville Today

Wildfire dangers rising in parched Northeast Florida

Published on June 18, 2024 at 4:33 pm

Northeast Florida is experiencing some of the driest conditions in the state, and the threat of wildfires could become serious if rain doesn’t arrive soon, state officials warn.

A bit of rain is forecast later this week, but conditions remain “very, very dry,” according to the Florida Forest Service.

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“This is common for this time of year, as our driest months are typically May and June,” said wildfire mitigation specialist Robert Chase from the Florida Forest Service’s Jacksonville Field Office in Brycevillehe.

The Forest Services uses the Keetch-Byram Drought Index to indicate the dryness of the soil and surface fuels. The index stands at 624 of 800 for the district that covers Clay, Duval and Nassau counties.

The Keetch-Byram drought index showed the extremely dry conditions in Northeast Florida on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. | Florida Forest Service

Few areas of the state are as dry. South Florida, swamped by rains in recent weeks, stands near zero.

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Despite dry conditions, the Forest Service’s estimated fire danger is moderate in the three-county area. The Forest Service’s interactive map shows no wildfires in Clay, Duval or Nassau counties. A 37-acre blaze in Baker County is shown as contained, and a cluster of small wildfires has broken out in north-central Florida, in Suwanee and Columbia counties.

“The Forest Service keeps a high level of readiness year-round as our state has the potential to burn, regardless of the season” Chase said. “Firefighting crews are on a high level of alert due to the current conditions for the time of year.”

State officials warn that the Jacksonville area will develop a serious chance of wildfires without real rain.

The National Weather Service forecast for Jacksonville shows temperatures in the high 80s through Friday, with Saturday’s high just over 90 degrees. The chance of rain hovers around 30% through Wednesday, but it rises steadily to 60% to 70% on Friday and Saturday.

Ponds are showing the very dry weather conditions and lower water levels. | Dan Scanlan, Jacksonville Today

With the high temperatures and little significant rain in recent weeks, JEA announced Tuesday that it continues to experience “exceptionally high demand” for its reclaimed water supply.

“We currently are producing and delivering more reclaimed water than ever before, but this surge in demand is putting a strain on our system and as a result reducing our system pressures,” spokesperson Karen McAllister said in a news release. 

JEA strongly urges all potable and reclaimed water customers to follow mandatory watering restrictions set by the St. Johns River Water Management District.

Under those rules, residential properties with odd-numbered or no addresses may water Wednesdays and Saturdays. Residential properties with even-numbered addresses may water Thursdays and Sundays. Non-residential properties may water Tuesdays and Fridays.

The JEA recommends watering from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. and for no more than one hour per zone. 

For a closer look at the district’s guidance, go to sjrwmd.com/wateringrestrictions.

author image Reporter, WJCT News 89.9 email Dan Scanlan is a veteran journalist with almost 40 years of experience in radio, television, and print reporting. He has worked at various stations in the Northeast and Jacksonville. Prior to joining the WJCT News team, Dan spent 34 years at The Florida Times-Union as a police and current affairs reporter.

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