FLORIDA – The Southeastern Interstate Forest Fire Protection Compact has been activated to send multi-state support to Florida where more than 120 wildfires are burning across the state – including the Chipola Complex of wildfires, which has prompted hundreds of evacuations and has so far burned more than 34,000 acres collectively. The fires have been fueled by some of the 72 million tons of downed timber from Hurricane Michael in 2018, exacerbating the ecological and economic impacts of that disaster.
When activated, the Southeastern Compact enables participating state forestry agencies to send wildland firefighting resources and personnel quickly and efficiently across state lines to suppress wildfires. While State Foresters continue to monitor their own wildfire and emergency risk to ensure adequate staffing and resources at home, the compact provides a ready system for sharing resources and state-to-state reimbursement for wildfire support.
“Although the South experiences wildfires year-round, we typically see heightened intensity and frequency in the spring,” said Jim Prevette, SGSF Fire Director. “With continued fire danger forecast in many parts of the South over the next few months, we will continue to rely on the strength of our longstanding state and federal partnerships to support the protection of life, property and natural resources across the region.”
Though wildfire is often mistakenly thought of as a solely western issue, the South sees more wildfires per year than any region in the United States, with an average of 68,000 wildfires burning 938,000 acres annually.
“We have been concerned with the increased wildfire threat since Hurricane Michael made landfall over three years ago,” said Erin Albury, State Forester and Director of the Florida Forest Service. “The current wildfire activity in the Panhandle demonstrates what the volume of fuel that remains on the ground can do and how critical it is for the South to retain adequate suppression resources. I appreciate our southern partners and their support as we work to protect these communities from any further devastation.”
“Programs that support wildfire prevention, mitigation and response on state and regional levels are essential to combat the wildfire threat to our southern communities and forests,” said Wib Owen, SGSF Executive Director. “This includes participation in regional cooperative efforts like the Southeastern Compact and others, as well as ensuring southern wildfire risk is adequately assessed and prepared for under national initiatives, such as the U.S. Forest Service’s recently released 10-Year Wildfire Crisis Strategy.”