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Florida Hurries To Remove Fire-Damaged Timber

May 24, 1985

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ Wildfires that torched more than 150,000 acres and destroyed 200 homes have been contained, but the work to save fire-ravaged timber is just beginning, officials said.

Weakened trees need to be removed quickly to claim at least some of their timber value and to save forests from infestation by disease and insects in the wake of the blazes, said Harold Mikell, assistant director of the Florida Division of Forestry.

Weakened trees attract wood-damaging beetles, which could then infest healthy trees, he said. Sawmills near burned areas will begin working overtime to handle the damaged timber, Mikell said.

Meanwhile, the state Senate approved 32-0 and sent to the House a bill that would reduce property taxes for people whose property was destroyed in the wave of fires.

Lightning sparked a few new fires Wednesday but they were quickly contained after burning about 500 acres.

″We are doing pretty good in all parts of the state,″ said Larry Amison, a Division of Forestry spokesman. ″I don’t think there are any (fires) that aren’t contained,″ he said.

Amison said crews are finishing their final mop-up in Flagler and Volusia along the central Atlantic coast, where some 200 homes were destroyed and another 400 to 500 homes were damaged by fires.

The wildfires, blamed on high winds and the abnormally dry conditions, have been burning on and off for about six months but grew to major proportions last weekend.

Causes have not been determined in most cases, but officials said arson, lightning and accidents all probably contributed.