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Fire chief asks residents to clear out dead brush

February 9, 2010

Lehigh Acres Fire Chief Don Adams has a warning for the people of Lehigh. The dry season is upon us, he says, and he is very concerned because of the danger of wildfires.

"We are in the beginning of the dry season and with all the dead grass, weeds and plants in people's yards, it is a sure way for a fire to spread fast and into people's yards.

"If we have a wildfire or a house fire, embers can fly in the air and land on the dry foliage which will burn like gasoline. It is of a great concern to us," Adams said.

Article Photos

Chief Don Adams inspects dry brush in Lehigh Acres.

"The couple of frosts that we had in January left grasses brown and also left much of the vegetation in the woods in Lehigh dead and now it has dried out and it will burn fast. Even a cigarette tossed out a window can cause a fire and it will spread fast," he said.

For the past several weeks now all through January and now into February, there have been alert flags posted for possible woods and grass fires, the chief said. "Much of it is based on the humidity; when it is low, the danger is worse for fires. When the humidity is high, it means there is some moisture in the vegetation, but not the dead vegetation. It is dry and can burn fast," he said.

"Even if we have rain, a day or two later when the sun comes out and the wind is blowing, it dries out and the dead foliage is a problem as are trees and bushes in the woods," he said.

"My advice to our residents is to remove the dead things that have turned dark and removed pine needles from the roof and gutters. People should have at least a 30-foot clearance from their house," he said.

Adams said the dry season gets worst in March and April because of high winds and dry brush due to the lack of rain.

"We're entering our dry season, and that should make us all to be careful with outside barbecues - make sure your coals are out. Use water to really make sure they don't flare back up," he said.

There was a grass fire two weeks ago and it was due to coals that people had used and had extinguished or they thought they had, the chief said.

The fire was in the 68th St. area and there were winds, but they died down. There were several houses nearby. It took up 15 minutes to get there.

"We may have gotten there sooner if Station 105 was open," he said.

"The fire ended up burning brush on about two acres until it was finally put down," the chief said.

He continues to be concerned because of the lack of personnel on fire trucks. Last August, he had a layoff of around 37 firefighters because of the lack of money to pay them as tax revenues were drastically lowered due to what people are calling the Great Recession.

When an engine is dispatched, so is an ambulance. All ambulance personnel have been trained as firefighters, too. But if ambulances have been dispatched to other places, the chief said he only has two men on a truck and he doesn't believe that is safe for his firefighters.

He has asked that ambulance transport be transfered to the county, but three members of the fire board disagree and voted no a few months ago to his suggestions, despite the fact that Lehigh residents are already paying taxes to support the county EMS and its ambulances.

The chief said a family should have an escape plan now.

"Come up with a plan and discuss it with the family. Plan an escape route, plan where to meet if the family gets separated. This is very important," he said. More information can be found on the Internet at, he said.

"That's a pretty good website for giving people information as how to survive," Adams said.

"Not only should people remove dead brush around their house and in the yard, but they should also remove everything else, such as plastic toys .... old furniture left outside, anything that will burn," Adams said.

Since the chief has been in Lehigh, firefighters have become more aggressive when called out to a fire.

His believes the best attack is to "put everything" he has, meaning fire trucks and personnel on the scene to put down a fire before it gets out of control. Fewer personnel now is a constant worry, he says.

"We may not always have a full shift on hand due to sick times and vacation days," the chief said.

Adams became chief here about 3 1/2 years ago in April of 2006. And while he won't brag, he believes being more aggressive when fighting wildfires is the way to put down any fire. That is the philosophy he passes on to his firefighters.



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Article Poll

  1. Yes, I am cleaning out the dead brush, pine needles, etc.
  2. No, there really is that much debris in my yard.
  3. No, I'll wait until there is a threat of fire.
  4. It won't do any good; if there is a fire, the flying embers will burn my roof anyway.