This past spring, the weather in Florida was extremely hot and dry. Very little rain fell during the months of March, April, and May, causing foreset to literally dry up. In late May, lighting hit the parched trees and raging fires started. After more than a two-month drought and 90-degree temperatures, Lush landscape turned into a tinderbox. The fires spead quickly because the forests were so dry. Day and night, through May, June, and July, more than 1,000 firefighters wrestled with one fire after another. Strong winds blew hot flames which turned the forest fires into wildfires. Many neighboring states sent firemen to Florida to help battle the blaze. Approximately 2,000 fires resulted from the hot sparks of lightning. Every area of this beautiful state was affected.
Unable to contain the wildfires, firefighters soon were fighting blazes in residential areas. Families were forced to leave their homes, and upon returning, found them in ashes and rubble. Many people found shelter in schools and churches. Nearly 150 homes and 500,000 acres of land were destroyed. Damage to homes and buildings was estimated at $120 million. The value of lost natural resources would certainly be even greater. Animals that lost their lives and forests that were destroyed will take many years to be replaced.
Environmentalists blame the Florida fires not only on the drought, but also on 50 years of land development. During this period, developers drained swamplands and planted non-native
trees that crowded out most native, fire-resistant cypress trees. Experts argue that when man tampers with nature, disaster may follow. This disaster is one that will definitely be in the minds of the citizens of Florida for a long time.