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Officials Don't Want to Extinguish Your Memorial Day Plans

It could be the hottest Memorial Day weekend in years across the Sunshine State, but officials hope they don't have to extinguish your plans.

Forecasters from the National Weather Service have expressed concern over conditions that are becoming more favorable for the rapid spread of wildfires. They urge outdoor enthusiasts to keep an eye on grills or bonfires, and to keep open flames at least 25 feet away from homes or heavily wooded areas. If you're planning to view fireworks this weekend, it's recommended to find a scheduled showing done by professionals.

Areas at greatest risk for wildfire activity are along and north of the I-10 corridor in northeast Florida, although conditions are favorable across most of the state. Long periods of little to no rain, low humidity values, and well above normal temperatures are the reasons behind this concern. An area of high pressure aloft is expected to keep the atmosphere drier than normal through early June, which will likely delay the onset of the state's rainy season.

Although rain chances are low through the weekend, keep in mind that a stray thunderstorm's lightning strike could be a non-human wildfire starter. This time two years ago, a fire broke out in the Okefenokee Swamp west of Jacksonville due to an isolated storm. It lasted months and destroyed over 100,000 acres of the forest.

In contrast, the Florida Forest Service reports that just over 25,000 acres have burned in Florida so far this year. And as of Wednesday, there were only 20 active fires, all of which were under control.

Citizens Property Insurance is a supporter of the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network, and they encourage their policy holders to consider clearing debris and dead vegetation around your home to prevent the spread of fires.

Many counties are likely to issue burn bans this weekend, and an updated list of those can be found on the Florida Forest Service website. Motorists are urged to use caution if they see smoke, and to report any suspicious activity to local authorities.

Forecaster Nicolette Zangara co-authored this story.

Sources include nearest National Weather Service office, National Hurricane Center, and the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network (@FloridaStorms).
Sources include nearby emergency management agencies, FEMA, and your local NPR affiliate. 
Sources include the Florida Department of Transportation, Florida Highway Patrol and other nearby traffic information.

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