Wildfires often begin unnoticed, but they spread quickly, igniting brush, trees, and homes. Every year, some homes survive, while many others do not, after a major wildfire. Those that survive almost always do so because their owners had prepared for the eventuality of fire, which is an inescapable force of nature in fire-prone wildland areas. Said in another way - if it's predictable, it's preventable.

Wildfires differ from other fires by their extensive size, the speed at which they can spread, their potential to change direction unexpectedly, and their ability to jump gaps such as roads, rivers, and fire breaks. In the US, there are typically 60,000 to 80,000 wildfires each year, burning 3 million to 10 million acres of land, depending on the year.

The most common causes of wildfires include lightning, human carelessness, and arson. Heat waves, droughts, and cyclical climate changes such as El NiƱo can also have a dramatic effect on the risk of wildfires, although, more than 80% of wildfires are caused by people.

Of the 3 sides of the fire behavior triangle (fuels, weather, and topography), weather is the most variable and least predictable. Changes in weather can lead to unexpected fire behavior and result in danger to life and property, whether the fire is the result of a carefully planned prescribed fire or a wildfire. The National Weather Service provides all the official fire weather forecasts for the state of Florida.

The meteorologist for the Florida Forest Service also creates a long-range fire season outlook 4 times a year for the state. This outlook is based in part on seasonal outlooks from NOAA's National Climate Prediction Center.

See below for tips on how to prepare yourself and your home for fire season.