Florida’s wildfire season opened far earlier this year than in 2016, and Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency.
On Wednesday, there were 26 active wildfires, including five in the North Central Florida region containing Gainesville and Ocala, according to the FL BurnTools app.
Officials say more fires are likely to occur.
This has been the earliest wildfire season since 2011, with 1,400 wildfires burning 60,000 acres so far.
Scott’s emergency order will allow other states to provide aid, said Ludie Bond, a wildlife specialist with the Florida Forest Service.
“We’ve done it before in the past: gone to help other states and gone out West,” she said. “And now it’s their turn to come help us.”
Though Gainesville residents aren’t yet under a burn ban, they should still be prepared and take precautions to avoid potential fires, Alachua County Fire Rescue Deputy Chief Harold Theus said.
“The last thing we would want to see happen is someone innocently burning a brush pile in their yard and that brush pile escape,” he said.
Tools like FL BurnTools can help residents keep track of all of the active wildfires across Florida.
“Prepare your home and property now,” Bond said. “Don’t wait until there’s a wildfire coming to your home to prepare. Clean up your roof, your gutters, get all the dead, dried leaf litter and pine straw away from your home, and have an evacuation plan.”
The emergency order will be reviewed after 30 days to see what’s needed to get through the remainder of the wildfire season.