The Florida Forest Service, a unit of the Florida Department of Agriculture, has identified the Plantation as an area of high risk for wildfire because of the extended dry period we are experiencing and the dense growth of plant fuels inside our boundaries. Todd Schroeder, state Wildfire Mitigation Specialist, spoke to the Board and met with Plantation owners in May to begin an education effort that will enable owners to better protect themselves and their properties.
The Board is pleased to provide the following information for your use. On this page, and others in the SGPOA website, you will find links to official Firewise programs as well as useful documents that you may use for self-assessment and for suggested safety improvements to your home and landscaping. If you prefer printed copies, please ask SGPOA staff for assistance.
Step One: Learning About Firewise Communities
Becoming a Firewise Community is based on the concept of neighbors willing to work together in a area to take responsibility for their wildfire risk. A program of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), an international nonprofit organization founded in 1896, the Firewise Communities Program encourages local solutions to reduce the burden of fire and other hazards to the quality of life. (See www.firewise.org)
What is the major cause of wildfire?
People. An overwhelming number of brush, grass and forest fires (between 87 and 96 percent) are caused by people, and most human-caused fires are accidental, related to the careless disposal of hot embers, ash or cigarettes.
Is my St George Island home in danger?
With just the right conditions--a dry, hot,windy day--and an ignition source--a spark from a grill or carelessly tossed cigarette--your home could be in fire's path faster than you might imagine. The Plantation has experienced two home fires within the last decade, one caused by lightning, the other by the dumping of still-warm charcoal from a grill. Those fires, fortunately, were limited to the homes themselves. To see what a wildfire can cause, look closely at Little St George, which was struck by lightning and out of the range of firefighters.
Won't our highly-qualified SGI Volunteer Fire Department and Florida Forest Service crews save us?
The unique features of the Plantation--single major artery, narrow T-roads, winding driveways, and large vegetated lots--make the Plantation especially challenging for fire fighters, no matter how well-trained or supplied. In recent years, SGPOA has taken aggressive measures to install water supplies (additional fire hydrants strategically placed) and to reduce foliage over roadways. Private properties, however, are the responsibility of the owners.
What are the most important things to do to protect my home?
Most homes that burn during a wildfire are ignited by embers landing on the roof, in gutters, on or under decks and porches, or in vents or other openings in the home. Make sure those areas are free of debris and fire-retardant. See below for specific steps.
How can I be Firewise and keep my trees and plantings?
Preparing your property for fire does not mean removing all your trees. Simply removing overhanging branches or cutting lower limbs may be helpful. Remember that healthy, well-maintained trees and fire-retardant landscaping can help make your home safer.
Step Two: Protecting your Property
The three most important areas to check at your home are the roof, the sides of the house, and the area within 30 feet of your house.
To learn how to protect your home from embers and other dangers, click here to read "Be Firewise Around Your Home" (PDF).
You may also ask SGPOA Office staff for a copy of this two-page brochure: "Be Firewise Around Your Home."
For other information particularly related to new construction or renovation, check with the ARC staff for a copy of "Booklet Guide to Landscape and Construction."
For landscaping with fire in mind, ask SGPOA for a copy of "Landscaping with Fire in Mind" and the "Firewise Florida Plant Guide by Flagler County (Florida) (PDF version).
Step Three: Protecting People
Just as you have a disaster plan for hurricanes, you should have a plan for wildfires. As you would in the case of a storm, plan in advance what special items, including insurance papers, medications, and "Disaster Supplies Kit," etc., are needed for evacuation. Contact a friend or family and let them know where you will be going. Be prepared and DO NOT take a route in the direction of the wildfire.
IF YOU HAVE TIME, close all exterior doors and windows, shut off propane at the tank, make sure garden hoses are hooked up with nozzles and visible by firefighters who might find them useful.
If you are told to evacuate by authorities, do so immediately. According to Todd Schroeder, state Wildfire Mitigation Specialist, if the wildfire is threatening your personal safety, go to the Gulf or the Bay waters and wait to be picked up by the special rescue teams who will be charged with that task.
SGPOA currently has an automated alert system that notifies owners by phone of non-disaster and threatening events affecting the Plantation. If you have not included all your contact information for this service, please notify the SGPOA staff with up-to-date information.