Districts May Need Fed Funding in Busy Fire Season | Environment

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Districts May Need Fed Funding in Busy Fire Season
Districts May Need Fed Funding in Busy Fire Season

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. -- This wildfire season could prove costly for the state's Division of Forestry (TOW). 

So far this spring has been very active, according to Senior Forester Greg Dunn. "Half-acre, acre fires - those are normal, but for it to... go to 20 to 1,100 acres in a day, those are abnormal for this time of year."

The Bunnell District of the DOF, which includes St. Johns, Flagler and Volusia counties, spent $2.3 million during fiscal year 2009-2010.  During that time, it dealt with 162 fires according to an email from District Manager Mike Kuypers.

This year's budget (2010-2011) is $2.2 million. As of Feb. 28, the district has spent $1.5 million of that money and fought 216 fires.

The Keller fire burned 1,134 acres in early March near Interstate 95 and U.S. 1 in St. Johns County. DOF crews are still monitoring it after "re-burn" was reported this week. 

"Re-burn" is caused by vegetation catching fire some time after a wildfire is out, because a stump or debris is still smoldering.

"Major fires like the Keller fire in St. Johns County can eat up a lot of budget in a hurry," said Kuypers. 

Early estimates of costs for that fire is more than $80,000. 

At this point, the Bunnell district seems to be on budget, expending about two-thirds of its annual budget with four months left in the fiscal year. 

However, if wildfires continue at their current rate, the DOF could need federal assistance to fight fires later this year. 

State officials said FEMA can fund firefighting efforts in an emergency.  

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