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Dry weather leads to burn ban in Brevard

Crews gear up for increasing fire threat

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BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Florida's dry season turned exceptionally dry in February and continued to do so to start March, meaning authorities are gearing up for the threat of brush fires in the next few weeks. 

March has had only a trace amount of rain through its first nine days, meteorologists said. And in February, only one-fifth of an inch of precipitation dropped, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.

That's why a burn ban was issued Friday in Brevard County and other parts of the Florida Forest Service's Orlando District. 

[MORE: Brush fire extinguished behind home in Palm Bay neighborhoodCity of St. Cloud under burn ban as dry conditions continue]

"We have issued no burn authorizations" in Brevard, forest service spokesman Cliff Frazier said. "We won't until the red flag is lifted. We're asking the public to use extreme caution."  

The red flag warning is issued when the humidity levels reach 35 percent or less for more than four hours or wind gusts are more than 15 mph, according to Florida Today. Brevard was also rated 5 (extreme) on a 5-point scale for fire danger by the forest service. 

"We're really ramping up" for the fire threat, Frazier said. Forest officials met with Brevard County Fire Rescue and other county authorities about the preparation.

The forest service added a second dispatcher for its shifts, Frazier said. The dispatchers direct fire crews to the scenes of brush fires.  

"We could have eight wildfires happening at the same time," Frazier said, as to the reason why staffing was increased. "They could be directing firefighters from different counties or different districts." 

Some steady rain would quell the threat, but that's neither in the forecast nor part of the historical trend for the month of March. 

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April is traditionally Florida's driest month, which means the fire threat will likely increase, Florida Today reported.

On a drought-index scale that ranges from 0 (no lack of moisture in the soil) to 800 (complete lack of moisture), Brevard scored 425 on Friday, the forest service said. Dry soil isn't the sole contributor to wildfires.

Palm Bay firefighters handled an acre-sized blaze Friday off of Rostock Circle Northwest. Firefighters prevented the fire from reaching homes in its vicinity. 

The situation is more dire in other parts of the state. Frazier said forestry crews in Naples were handling a 6,000-acre fire this week after a prescribed burn jumped the line.