Hillsborough County, Florida -- Flames crackle through grass pastures at the DC Crum Ranch, as curious cows watch firefighters from the Florida Forest Service rumble past. Thursday's fire at the ranch is a controlled burn. It was set on purpose to help improve grazing and reduce the risk of wildfire.
"It will reduce the fire threat," says Patrick Keogh, a Forest Service area supervisor. "We won't have a fire on this property where we burned for at least a year, because we've reduced the fuel."
The property owner, David Crum, hired the Forest Service to manage the burn, but this longtime rancher remembers a time when such fires weren't so controlled.
"The old days we used to ride through the woods on the horses and drop a match and let it go. There weren't many people back in those days, but now we have neighbors, so you've got to control your fire. You don't want it on their property," Crum explained.
On Thursday, the flames traveled quickly through the grass. The recent cold snap and low humidity puts the fire danger index around the Bay area at "High" or "Very High".
And firefighters around the state have been busy. Since the first of the year, Fire Service crews have fought 473 blazes. Most recently, on Wednesday in Charlotte County, they battled two very large brush fires.
The wildfire season typically runs through mid-June, when we start to see some regular rains. So until then, firefighters urge caution; reminding people to clear brush from around their houses and to be responsible with fire.
"If you're doing any type of outdoor burning, you need to be careful," says Keogh. "It can get away very quickly. If you can wait for a day when the humidity's higher and the winds lower, that would be the best thing."
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