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Red flag warnings on the Suncoast

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NORTH PORT - It was a bright, sunny day on the Suncoast, but the dry conditions are also bringing out fire danger concerns.

The area is under red flag warnings. In fact, a few small brush fires have broken out in North Port recently, with another one Friday. That fire was put out in minutes.

At the entrance to the city of North Port the water level is low. Fire officials here say the lack of rain, low humidity and gusty winds are perfect conditions for fires to start and move quickly.

"We've got some real concerns with the fire danger right now," says North Port Fire Marshal Michael Frantz.

Like a lifeguard at the beach, Frantz puts out the red flag on warning signs throughout the city. "Extreme conditions right now all over Sarasota County. In Charlotte, DeSoto and Hardee red flag warnings are out."

The warnings coming from the National Weather Service and the Division of Forestry as the numbers climb up on the drought index. "A breezy day like today with 15 or 18 mile an hour winds with gusts up to 20 or 25, it can be off and running real quickly."

A small fire Friday off Price Boulevard was quickly put out. Another fire happened feet from homes in the past few days. It’s a special concern in North Port, where many houses and empty parcels are mixed between the city's 67,000 platted lots.

In recent years, we've seen major fires started by things like catalytic converters from parked cars on the grass, burning yard debris, an errant cigarette, BBQ coals, bonfires and even arson. "It's just little things like that people don't think about."

Officials are not only asking people to be more vigilant, but also to take a few precautions to keep shrubs and trees away from homes as best as possible and simply look around. "Clean out the gutters, clean the pine needles off the roof usually twice a year on that type of stuff."

A little awareness for a growing concern, which might not be going away anytime soon. "A little bit extra vigilance on the part of the public. Just be aware we are in this drought condition. We probably will be until we get significant rain in the spring time."

Officials think Friday’s fire was caused by the remains of a small camp fire left unattended. The Florida Forestry says nearly a quarter of all wildfires they see are a result of carelessness or arson.