Lightning Starting St. Johns Wildfires; 40 Fires in Putnam County | Environment

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Lightning Starting St. Johns Wildfires; 40 Fires in Putnam County
Lightning Starting St. Johns Wildfires; 40 Fires in Putnam County

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. -- Lighting really can strike twice. Three new fires sparked in St. Johns County Thursday.

"Every time we call one out, we get two or three of these lightning storms that keep coming through," said St. Johns County Senior Forester Greg Dunn.

These new fires have each been caused by lightning, days after storms moved through the area. It could be up to a week after a storm that the firestorm begins.

Worse, forestry officials said the rain that comes with the lightning isn't enough to put them out.

"If it gets a half inch or even an inch on it, as dry as the conditions are, it can just be sitting there until the conditions are right," Dunn added.

In the Bunnell Fire District, which includes St. Johns and Putnam counties, there are 86 wildfires burning nearly 7,800 acres. In the Waccasassa District, which includes Putnam County, there are 90 fires burning about 8,500 acres. 

In Putnam County, firefighters are forced to defend some homes from the fires intermittently, according to Mike Patterson, Putnam County Fire and EMS chief.

According to Ludie Bond, Division of Forestry spokesperson, there is one fire near Grandin around Half Moon Lake. Another is south of Interlachen around County Road 315, and two more are in Satsuma, and near the railroad track south of Georgetown and Denver roads and Old U.S. Highway 17.

Lightning strikes are being blamed for all of the fires, said Bond. Resources from Marion, Levy and Alachua county are being used to fight the fires.

Dunn monitors radar during severe weather, looking for ground strikes. Once the storm passes, forestry workers check the areas where lightning struck, looking for any sign of a fire.

If one pops up, the DOF can immediately pinpoint the cause.

Believe it or not, Dunn said so far the First Coast has been lucky. Conditions are just as dry as they were during the wildfire outbreak of 1998, but the number of lightning strikes has not yet reached the same level. 

"We haven't had the hundred or so dry lightning strikes like we did in '98.  If we come across the lightning strikes that we did, we could be running."


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