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Drought and wildfires have state officials saying "pray for rain"

Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner and the head of the state’s Division of Forestry are warning Floridians to be aware of an increased risk of wildfire danger. As Sascha Cordner reports, all of Florida is now facing drought conditions.

During a wildfire update to Governor Rick Scott and his Cabinet, officials heard that Florida is at a huge risk for wildfires:

“100-percent of the state is in a drought, this is as about Thursday, Friday, and  twelve-percent of the state is in an exceptional drought.”

As of last week, 58,ooo acres have burned throughout Florida, and Jim Karels, Florida’s Division of Forestry Director says many wildfires are human-caused. But, major fires are usually the result of lightning strikes.

“And, lightning is just starting, and it will go through May, June, and July, and it will take that period of two-to-three months to rain out enough that we’re able to catch the fires. But, this is where we run the worst fires this time of year, going into through the month of June. And, it will really depend a lot of lightning activity, and do we get rain first or do we get rain after the lightning?”

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam told his fellow Cabinet Member Governor Rick Scott that what’s needed is some major rain.

Putnam: “So, it’s a pretty serious situation that the state’s in and will continue to be in throughout the Spring and Summer.

Scott: So, pray for rain!

Putnam: Pray for rain!

Scott: [laughs] and no lightning.

Putnam: That’s right! [laughs] Pray for a tropical storm, but not a hurricane.”

Putnam says the dry conditions are keeping authorities from doing as much prescribed burning as his agency would prefer.

Controlled and prescribed burning are methods used to manage forests, wildlife habitats, and agriculture land. It helps to reduce undergrowth that accumulates over time, which can cause wildfires.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.