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Wildfire Threat Remains High For Polk After River Ranch Fire

Scores of Hunting Camp Structures Were Destroyed in Recent Fire

A very dry winter in the Lake Wales area that has extended into the spring has led to critically dry conditions and a very high fire risk. Extreme caution is being urged by authorities when handling any sort of open flame or heat source.

A recent fire at the River Ranch hunting tract burned over 1,000 acres and destroyed scores of temporary structures. No one was hurt in the fires, but valuable fire-fighting resources were strained in combatting the blaze.

Meager rains in March that followed the dry prior months have left brush and grass tinder dry, so heat sources as simple as a hot exhaust system can spark dangerous wildfires. This week humidity levels will once again approach red-flag conditions, making any fire a severe risk.

As drought conditions prevail and low humidity persists, Polk County Fire Rescue (PCFR) would like to encourage the public to help prevent accidental bush fires throughout the county.

Since January 2023, Polk County Fire Rescue firefighters have responded to 102 brush fires throughout the county.

"As the lack of rainfall continues throughout Polk County, our commitment to community risk reduction will continue to focus on being proactive and responsive," said Polk County Fire Rescue Chief, Hezedean A. Smith, D.M. "As partners, Polk County Fire Rescue needs the public's help reducing the chances of these brush fires occurring."

Polk County's current Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) score is averaging 458. The Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) is a continuous reference scale used by the Florida Forest Service to assess the risk of fire by estimating the dryness of the soil and duff layers.

Here are a few tips to help reduce the chances of a brush fire from igniting:

• Secure trailer safety chains properly to prevent them from sparking on asphalt;

• Dispose of cigarette butts properly;

• Do not litter or accumulate piles of dry debris;

• Keep lawns hydrated and maintained - dry grass and shrubs can fuel wildfires;

• Do not park a hot vehicle over dry vegetation;

• local laws regarding open fires, including campfires;

• Carefully dispose of hot charcoal;

• Never leave a fire unattended, especially overnight;

• Do not burn anything outside on windy days;

• Don't spill gasoline or motor oil on grass or other dried vegetation;

• Limit activities or use of machinery that may emit sparks; and

• Keep a sufficient water source nearby when grilling or starting a campfire.


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