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Florida declares state of emergency as wildfires scorch parts of the state

On this Saturday, 8th April 2017 photo, aircraft of the U.S. forestry service and the Florida forestry service are working to contain a huge forest fire in Hernando Beach, Fla

(Luis Santana /Tampa Bay Times via AP)

TAMPA, Florida. – Firefighters are battling forest fires from the top of Florida near the Georgia line to Miami-Dade County in the south, as the governor declared a state of emergency Tuesday.

Gov. Rick Scott said the proclamation will make it easier for national, regional and local authorities “to quickly work together to protect our families, visitors and communities” as the authorities battle more than 100 fires around the state.

“Thank God we have the firefighters we do at the local, state and federal level and willing to put their life in danger to take care of us,” he added. “If it wasn’t for their hard work we would have lost a lot of the houses … across the state.”

The blaze also has an impact on the fauna. On Sunday, Pembroke Pines Police reported that a group of teenagers caught a 13-foot python with a burn on the skin in the South Florida community near the Everglades Wildlife Management Area.

“The brush fires in the Everglades, you will see an increase in wildlife entering residential areas to escape the smoke and flames,” the police department wrote on its Facebook page. Added pictures of the snake, who was treated at a wildlife park.

Forest fires are burning on a total of more than 23,800 acres (9,600 ha) of land and have destroyed 19 homes, authorities said.

Agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam said this is the most active wildfire season since 2011 with a number of 107 fire.

A Florida Fire department map shows most of the fires occur between Lake Okeechobee to the south and the Ocala National Forest in the north. Scott’s executive order, it is expected that the speed of the government assistance in hard-hit Polk, Collier, Marion, Nassau, Broward, Hernando, and glades counties.

Since February, forest fires have swept over 68,000 acres (25,500 hectares) of the state. That amount is higher than the average acreage burnt in the last five years.

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The largest blaze is now known as the Cowbell Brand in the South of Florida’s Big Cypress National Preserve, which has spread to more than 8,000 acres (3,200 hectares) just north of Interstate 75.

Authorities lightning wildfire in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, and it has continued to spread, burning through more than 9 square miles (23 square km) of swamp and forest near the Georgia-Florida state line.

Susan Heisey, a supervisory ranger for the south Georgia resort, said Tuesday that more firefighters will be added to a team of more than 100 trying to contain the blaze to the public land.

Heisey said the fire started in the southern part of the Okefenokee refuge huge 407,000 hectares (16,400 acres). She said: it is now being distributed in the neighboring Osceola National Forest and John M. Bethea State Forest in Florida.

In Pasco County, north of Tampa, voluntary evacuations were issued Monday, and an emergency shelter was opened. The evacuation order was revoked and the shelter closed later Monday evening, but officials there are warning residents to be ready in case of evacuations are recommended.

A fire, near Oviedo in central Florida, over the weekend resulted in the evacuation of almost 40 homes and harrowing moments for firefighters. And Hernando County brush fire apparently sparked by lightning on Saturday had been widened to 1,100 acres (445 hectares) on Monday.

The dry conditions mark a sharp contrast to 2016, when the state was soaked by two hurricanes. Many areas are experiencing drought, and the authorities said that is a big factor in the reason why so many forest fires have ignited. April and May are traditionally Florida’s driest months.

Putnam said that about 90 percent of the fires this year sparked by the man.

State health officials warn that wildfire smoke affects people with chronic lung and heart problems and asthma. Doctors have advised people with these conditions should limit their outdoor activities like forest fires burning in the area.

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