A large plume of smoke and lots of ash blanketed the sky Thursday across northern Brevard County as the Florida Forest Service purposefully lit about 80 acres of scrub land in the Scottsmoor Flatwoods Sanctuary.

  • Drought index has all of Central Florida in the dry category
  • Officials using prescribed burns to burn away any potential fuel
  • A system moving in this weekend could bring much-needed rain

The burn was part of a planned prescribed burn to take away potential fuel for brush fires. With a lack of any measurable rain in recent weeks across most of Central Florida, fire officials are fighting potential brush fires — with fire.

The drought index is in the dry category with areas of Central Florida showing just a trace amount of rain so far this year and conditions getting riper for fires to ignite.

A 350-acre fire near Titusville back in 2012 took days to get under control while forcing the closure of State Road 50 and Interstate 95.

A lightning strike likely caused the fire after it ignited dry brush.

"We've seen the evidence in large brush fires, the areas that had been previously treated through prescribed fire no longer had available fuel, which meant the fire was not able to spread as quickly," Brevard Emergency Management Director Kimberly Prosser said.

People who live in Brevard County are thankful that officials are taking a proactive approach.

"If the brush is too dry or thick, things like that can happen due to lightning," said Michael Aulicino, who lives in Brevard County.

An approaching system will likely bring a decent chance for rain Friday night and Saturday, which should help ease the dry conditions. 

"Rain (on) Saturday could bring in a couple inches and help out a bit," News 13 meteorologist Mallory Nicholls said.

(Greg Pallone, staff)