POINCIANA — A brush fire that threatened parts of a residential development in Poinciana is under control today, and fortunately the flames didn’t cause damage to any nearby homes as it burned.
“It’ a five-acre brush fire, and it’s out now,” said Nikki Whistler, public information officer for the Osceola County’s Fire Rescue-Emergency Management-Animal Control agency. “It’s smoldering now. We did turn it over last night to DOF (Division of Forresty), so we’re not even on the scene anymore.”
The brush fire burned close to the Parkview at Lakeshore townhouses, although firefighters were able to eliminate the danger it posed to neraby homes by cutting lines around the fire.
“We go into the fire until DOF comes in with their trucks and they take over from there,” Whistler said. “If there are any injuries, we stick around to treat them.”
In this case, there were no injuries to report, Whistler said, and right now the cause of the fire isn’t yet known.
“The Fire Marshall will come in and do an investigation,” she said. “That usually takes about two weeks.”
The brush fire started just 10 days after Osceola County reinstated its burn ban, due to the dry weather conditions and a lack of rainfall in the past month.
Osceola County Fire Chief Rich Collins issued the burn ban for unincorporated Osceola County on May 8, and put out a statement noting that “Without any appreciable rain in the past few weeks or any expected in the near future, we have reached drought conditions that may lead to wildland fires in or near the urban interface.”
Eighty percent of Osceola County is still rural, making the county highly vulnerable to brush fires. One of the fastest growing counties in Florida in the past decade, Osceola County nevertheless still has just two cities, Kissimmee and St. Cloud, and several communities in unincorporated areas, including Celebration, Poinciana and Harmony.
Although Osceola County lifted its burn ban in April, rural sections of the county have remained vulnerable because the right conditions have existed for months for vulnerability to wildfires, including a prolonged period of dry weather and lack of rain.
With 80 percent of the land still being rural, a brush fire can spread quickly and eventually pose a serious threat to urban areas, as Wednesday’s fire did to the Poinciana subdivision — at least initially.
“Usually when the fire chief reinstates the burn ban, it means we haven’t gotten a lot of rain,” Whistler said. “We did get some rain last week, but it still wasn’t enough to lift the ban.”
Jeanette Coughenour, manager of the Association of Poinciana Village’s, the community’s homeowners association, said brush fires haven’t been a problem in Poinciana — yet.
“It’s not something I’m aware of,” she said. “We talk to Public Safety a lot, but I haven’t heard anything on the brushfire front, and hopefully we won’t have an issue with it. We’ll just keep our fingers crossed. Obviously it’s not something we want to have. We desperately need the rain, though.”
Gerry Lockavara, wildfire mitigation coordinator for the Florida Division of Forrest, said there are currently 11 counties in Florida, including Osceola, that have a burn ban in effect. The other counties are Baker, Citrus, Flagler, Glades, Hendry, Marion, Martin, Putnam, St. Lucie and Volusia.
“There is one city that has a burn ban, Palm Beach East,” he said.
May is a typically a month with a lot of wildfires start and burn bans go into effect, he said.
“Any time that we have really dry conditions, counties or municipalities will look to a burn ban,” Lockavara said. “It’s totally up to them, it’s their call. It typically happens around this time of year.”
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