Red Flag Warning issued for Sarasota County

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SARASOTA COUNTY - The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for Sarasota County and North Port for Thursday.

The warning is issued until 8 pm. A Red Flag Warning is issued when conditions are very favorable for the spread of wildfire within a 24-hour period. Today, the winds are northerly at 10 to 15 miles per hour, with the humidity below 35 percent. The lowest humidity will be between 18 and 25 percent for up to nine hours. This condition is likely to continue through the week-end.

Any fires that develop will likely spread rapidly. Although we have had a little rain this week, the drought index is between 650 and 700, which is approaching the extremely dangerous category. The Keetch-Byrum Drought Index is a scale of wildfire danger from zero (no danger) to 800 (extreme danger). You can see more information on the Keetch-Byrum Index at .

"With little rainfall, low humidity and gusty winds, weather conditions in our area are perfect for the rapid start and spread of wildfire. Although we had a little rain this week it was not nearly enough to ward off these dangerous fire conditions," said North Port Deputy Fire Chief Scott Titus.

With the wildfire danger being so high - we're asking the public to please be vigilant. Report any open burning by calling 9-1-1. Be extremely cautious when leaving your car idling along the side of the road - the grass underneath your car can start on fire quickly. ATV riders who enjoy riding on trails or in the woods should be careful with hot exhaust pipes and sparks when they ride. Never discard cigarettes or other lighted materials.

Although Florida is the lightning capital of the US, Forestry officials say that over 20 percent of all wildfires in Florida are the result of human carelessness or arson. Small fires can quickly get out of control, threatening life and property. Unlike a prescribed burn, a wildfire is an unwanted fire that spreads rapidly. North Port has a city ordinance which addresses burning in the city. For more information on the City Ordinance, visit the City of North Port website under City Hall - Fire Rescue.

To minimize the risk of wildfire:

• Avoid all outside burning - Do not burn yard waste or trash at any time.

• If you use the burn pans or chimineas, available in stores, please be certain the screen spark arrestor is in good condition and is securely in place.

• Watch barbeque grills at all times and make sure ashes are cold before disposing of them. Placing them in a metal container with water overnight is the best method to ensure they are completely out.

• Create a safety zone between your home and combustible plants and vegetation (the fuel) a minimum of 30 feet around the structure. This will reduce exposure to flames and heat and provide firefighters room to work.

• Fireproof your structure - clean gutters and roof of dry needles and leaves at least twice a year. Do not use pine needles as mulch next to your house.

• Never leave any fire unattended.

• Report any suspicious fire by calling 9-1-1.

As with any emergency, have a Family Plan:

• Prepare the family for disaster - have emergency evacuation kits ready.

• Establish and practice a family evacuation plan.