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Bush Brothers Join in Fla. Fire Warning

May 9, 2006

SUN CITY CENTER, Fla. (AP) _ President Bush and his governor brother issued an impromptu service announcement Tuesday, reminding Florida residents not to throw out cigarette butts with wildfires blazing across the state.

Officials at Fire Station 28 in this community near Tampa briefed the brothers Bush on the dry, windy conditions that were contributing to about 50 wildfires across the state, including one in the area that was believed to have been started by a spark from a utility line. The brothers then came outside, where dark smoke from one fire could be seen in the distant sky, to talk to reporters.

``Obviously the people need to be real careful, careful about starting fires, be careful about not throwing used cigarettes out,″ the president said. ``They need to be mindful that these are dangerous conditions.″

His brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, also noted that tossing a cigarette butt is a felony in the state.

``We want to make sure that no fires are started because of human error or negligence or malfeasance,″ he said.

Gov. Bush declared a state of emergency Monday and called in the Florida National Guard to help fight wildfires that have burned thousands of acres and blanketed highways with thick smoke.

Officials are tracking about 50 active wildfires throughout the water-parched state, including blazes just south of Daytona Beach that have destroyed three homes and shut down stretches of Interstate 95.

Rain was expected to help some areas Tuesday afternoon, but officials worried that lightning could spark more blazes.

Interstate 95 had reopened early Tuesday in Brevard and Volusia counties, Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Kim Miller said. However, smoke could shut it down again if the fires flare up again.

About 1,000 residents were ordered to evacuate Sunday in New Smyrna Beach as the fire approached. Avia Toney was relieved Monday to find her house had been spared. She fled the neighborhood only when she saw fire approaching through the woods across a nearby golf course.

``It was right at the edge of the woods,″ she said. ``Ashes were falling. It was black and ugly.″

``We still have significant wildfire conditions and need a tremendous amount of rain to get back to normal levels,″ New Smyrna Beach spokeswoman Shannon Lewis said Tuesday.

More than 2,200 wildfires have burned over 44,000 acres in Florida since Jan. 1, according to the state Division of Forestry.

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