Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson is asking the public to be careful with all outdoor fires this holiday season.

“Florida has received below normal amounts of precipitation through the fall months, and the recent freezing temperatures in the northern part of the state have left much of our wildlands vulnerable to wildfire,” Bronson said.

“The freeze-dried vegetation will only add to the already accumulated debris that is still scattered across Florida from the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons.”

Relative humidities below 35 percent, lack of rainfall for two weeks or longer and strong dry winds are all components that create extreme fire danger.

“Any fire that starts during these weather conditions could get out of control and spread quickly,” said Bronson.

Bronson is asking the public to observe the following behavior:

• Report any suspicious fire by calling 911.

• Never leave any fire unattended.

• Clear an area down to bare soil around campfires and warming fires.

•Do not burn yard waste during dry, windy conditions.

• Keep your home safe from fires by clearing leaves from the roof and gutters, and by removing dead vegetation within 30 feet of your home. It is also important to trim trees and limbs within 15 feet of your chimney and make sure that you have a properly working spark arrester on your chimney.

The Commissioner is recommending that Floridians contact their local Division of Forestry office for more information on fire prevention tips and burning regulations, or visit the Division of Forestry’s Web site at www.fl-dof.com.

Florida has had 478 wildfires which burned 3,052 acres this fall for the months of September through December of this year. The number of wildfires and acres burned are up from the five year average of 330 fires which burned 1,635 acres during the same September through December time period during the previous five years.

Since Jan. 1, 4,596 Florida wildfires have burned 213,012 acres. Most of these fires (77 percent) were caused by humans.