As wildfire season approaches, there is expected to be an increased threat in 2017 due to extensive dry brush from previous storms, several years of mild fire conditions, a dryer spring season and growth in urban interface areas of the District.
North Collier Fire Control and Rescue District responds to an annual average of 141 brush fires and wildfire calls alone, and that number is expected to increase in the New Year. North Collier Fire Rescue invited all fire agencies in Collier County and Florida Forest Service to a planning meeting several months ago. We collaboratively want to get out in front of the heightened concerns by utilizing the Foresty comprehensive wildfire mitigation plan and enhance it through supportive efforts of the fire districts. A part of the effort is a continued partnership with the Florida Forest Service to share equipment, people and fuel. The assistance aids Forestry in its efforts to create fire breaks using roller choppers typically in a North and South pattern. Fire breaks are key in slowing a brush fire and aid in the ability to quickly contain it.
There are new challenges facing the North Collier Fire Control and Rescue District. The continued growth in urban interface areas has led to enhanced wildfire mitigation efforts. Rural areas were typically controlled through prescribed burns, but with the growth, scheduled burns are pushed farther out. As the map changes, North Collier is using it as an opportunity to increase community outreach to help rural neighborhoods prepare their properties for the peak of wildfire season in March, April, May and June. Part of the district’s outreach includes:
- Door-to-door identification of homes needing care
- Town Hall meetings
- Prescribed burns
- Public Outreach – face-to-face and online via social media
- Improved GIS mapping
- Strong regional mutual aid coordination
- On-going reviews of water sources in rural areas
- Mitigation Plan for 2017
Collier County is one of the top spots in the State for property loss risks from wildfires and ranks 4th in the State. In Collier County, Orangetree, which falls in the North Collier Fire and Rescue District, is number one for the most lightning strikes in the entire nation. Increased awareness is working in the District including our door-to-door efforts, planned community meetings, social media, annual wildfire round-up, cross training drills and exercises and aggressive public response to fire in the early moments.
As wild fire season quickly approaches, homeowners in rural or gated communities should work on the following to help protect their homes:
- remove all branches touching the home (creates problems with lightning)
- clear all brush (tall grass, leaves, branches, weeds, etc.) within 30 feet of home
- keep gutters clear
- build with fire-resistant materials on roof, siding and decks
- remove combustibles from under or near structures (wood, propane tanks, gas grills, motor homes, boats, ATV and cars)
- trim branches up to 10 feet and remove vines from trees
- use gravel or chunky bark for mulch
- install spark arrestors on chimney
- keep flammable plants away from your home (palmetto or wax myrtle)
- keep driveway at least 12 feet wide with 12 feet high clearance
Around 20% of Collier County’s disaster declarations are due to wildfires. Continuing to build our programs and outreach will have a significant positive effect in our District.
We encourage the community to join us and the Florida Forest Service at our informational meeting on Tuesday, January 31st from 7 to 9 p.m. It will be held the UF/IFAS Collier Extension located at 14700 Immokalee Road Naples, FL 34120. Or February 8th at 7 pm at the Greater Naples Fire Station 71 located at 100 13th St. SW. Naples.
The Board of Fire Commissioners
North Collier Fire Control and Rescue District