TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Since Jan. 1, thousands of acres in Florida
have been consumed by drought-induced wildfires, but although many
fires were still raging in central and northern counties, at press
time they were not a major threat to the larger tourist zones.
During Memorial Day weekend, 139 fires broke out, forestry
At press time, only minimal rain relief was in sight. While the
rain is welcome, accompanying lightning can set off new fires,
forestry officials warned.
One effect on tourism, according to a Visit Florida spokesman,
is that campfires have been banned statewide.
Also, some excursion boat operators must limit passenger numbers
to prevent scraping the boats' bottoms, as water levels have
lowered due to the drought, according to local newspaper
Officials at Orlando's theme parks said that no impact on
attendance from nationwide wildfire publicity has occurred.
Fireworks at Walt Disney World and Sea World continue but with
On June 2, six accidents caused by smoke from wildfires forced
the closure of Interstate 95 for 14 miles between Titusville and
Recently the statewide average on the Keetch-Bryam Drought Index
was 629; a reading of 800 is equal to desert conditions.
Sixteen Florida counties posted more than 700, and 34 counties
A recently activated hot-link icon on the Visit Florida Web
site, www.flausa.com, connects users to the State of Florida
Emergency Operations Center's Web site, which also can be accessed
independently at www.dca.state.fl.us/eoc/.
Meanwhile, Gov. Jeb Bush activated a National Guard unit to
fight one fire and has made arrangements to request out-of-state
firefighting assistance, if necessary.
Florida's worst wildfire outbreak, in terms of slowing tourist
arrivals, occurred in spring and summer 1998.