Above: Static test firing of a SpaceX rocket, May 28, 2017 at the Kennedy Space Center. The smoke is from the rocket, not the vegetation fire. SpaceX photo.
The static test firing of a rocket at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida started a vegetation fire in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge May 28. SpaceX was conducting a test of a Falcon 9 rocket at Launch Complex 39A when the fire accidentally started on what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service called a small island. With the aid of water drops from a helicopter the spread of the fire was stopped at four acres.
SpaceX plans to actually launch the rocket Thursday June 1 at 5:55 p.m. EDT to ferry a Dragon cargo ship to the International Space Station.
Seven helicopters, two air tankers, 135 wildland fire engines, 62 bulldozers, five hand crews, and 1,025 personnel were assigned to the blaze Sunday.
“The fire remained relatively inactive,” officials said in an update.
While “inactive” is the name of the game for the West Mims Fire — and for spring fire situations across much of the U.S. inundated with spring storms and abundant moisture — it’s anything but quiet in the Sunshine State.
Twenty-eight fires in excess of 100 acres burned over the weekend within Florida Fire Service jurisdiction, charring 36,000 acres, according to state figures.
Such blazes blackened 109,415 acres of land so far this year.
Fire danger indices were “high” or “very high” in more than a dozen Florida counties this weekend. Citrus growers “are irrigating daily to keep moisture on the trees,” the USDA reported, and “ditches and canals are very dry in all [citrus] areas.” Plus, livestock producers are having to have hay shipped in as a result of the dry conditions.
And even though some rain was in the forecast for some Florida residents, state officials said they’re not out of danger by any stretch of the imagination.
“We are buckled up for a very long and very hot wildfire season,” said Adam Putnam, the commissioner of agriculture in Florida, according to Bloomberg News.
Meanwhile, others around the country are enjoying a relatively unusual drought-free reality as June nears.
Feet — yes, feet — of snow fell in Colorado and across the Rocky Mountains late last week as a potent spring storm plowed through the region. And places accustomed to persistent drought, like California, continue to bask in aftermath of an especially soggy winter.
18 to 36 inches of snow has fallen in the foothills with this spring storm. An additional 6" to 12" is expected by morning. #cowxpic.twitter.com/R9hAGJCE6s
“Another area of significant precipitation stretched across the middle and northern Atlantic States, while showers also dotted the Northwest. In contrast, mostly dry weather prevailed from California to the lower Rio Grande Valley, as well as large sections of the lower Southeast.”
Though hot temperatures are forecast for parts of California early this week, a cold front is expected to move through the Pacific Northwest, bringing cooler conditions and more moisture, according to the National Weather Service.
Floridians in the meantime will have to keep waiting for the rainy seasons to finally begin, later this month and into June.
A military training exercise in Florida this week sparked a wildfire that has since burned thousands of acres and sent smoke billowing for miles.
The fire started Wednesday in the weapons-impact area of Avon Park Air Force Range in central Florida. Officials had restricted training activities that involved exploding or incendiary devices, but the fire still sparked and quickly grew to about 4,000 acres, news outlets in the area reported.
Firefighters are generally letting the fire burn to containment lines, citing concerns about the possibility of encountering old munitions or un-exploded devices.
The range is used for air-to-ground training exercises and consists of more than 100,000 acres of land. No structures were immediately threatened, and no injuries were reported.
With Georgia’s West Mims Fire now making continual headlines, photos of smoke plumes and falling ash are seemingly everywhere. That means this photo from a couple weeks ago is sure to make the rounds, too.
Published April 28 on InciWeb, the shot of a firefighter carrying a fawn to safety quickly got buried in a tide of photos showing the fire’s massive smoke plumes and stories about the front jumping containment lines. Ash fell on parts of downtown Jacksonville, Florida, over the weekend.
According to the latest updates, the West Mims Fire has burned more than 140,000 acres. Another 7,000 acres has burned by Monday afternoon, and flame lengths up to 150 feet were reported.
Tuesday’s outlook was anything but promising.
“The fire will be fuel-driven and plume-dominated, meaning that when tall columns develop, they could abruptly collapse, sending downburst winds in all directions. Two columns could also develop at the same time,” officials said. “All this extreme fire behavior will create very dangerous conditions for firefighters.”
Burn bans are in place across a large swath of the state. Forecast fire danger indices for Tuesday called for “very high” or “extreme” fire danger in counties across the state.
“Florida wildfires have burned nearly four-and-a-half times more acreage under state jurisdiction than the same time last year,” said S. Kinley Tuten, a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, according to USA TODAY.
“Florida is in the middle of its worst wildfire season in years – with no end in sight,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, CBS-Miama reported Monday.
While much of the United States has seen reprieve from drought conditions in recent months, the situation has worsened significantly across Florida since February, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.