The Heat Is Online

Drought Fuels 2,000 Florida Fires

Breezes, low relative humidity feed wildfires, April 20, 2001

Red flags dot Florida weather maps Friday because of low relative humidity in the state. The markers indicate fertile ground for wildfires like the one that has consumed nearly 6,000 acres, several cars, and a home near Sarasota since Wednesday.

"The red flag warnings are mainly issued because of wind and for the low relative humidity," said Mark Ressler, a senior meteorologist for The Weather Channel. "Though winds are only 10-15 mph, the dew points and the relative humidity being so low are the main contributors to today's red flag warnings. It means that an area is fire-prone at that time."

In addition to the Sarasota blaze that firefighters say is 50 percent contained, crews are also monitoring several brush fires believed started by an arsonist. About 100 people were evacuated from their homes Thursday in a area between Tampa and Fort Myers where the arsonist struck.

Separate fires in Collier County, Catherine Island and St. Lucie County also kept firefighters occupied. Smoke from a brush fire forced officials in St. Lucie County to close two exit ramps on Interstate 95.

Nearly 2,000 wildfires have destroyed 138,000 acres and damaged or destroyed 43 homes in Florida since the beginning of the year. Experts say the ongoing drought is the main reason for the fires.

The Associated Press contributed to this