News Cast 4/17

News Cast for April 17th:

Investigating the wild fires

The Florida Forest Service has made progress in an investigation into several wild fires that broke out last week in Fort Drum Ranchettes and the Pinelands.

Investigators had identified a suspect and had spent at least two days investigating the scene.

Fire Chief Earl Wooten said there were several areas that had fires and they all appeared to be suspicious.

“It was a very close call for residents.  Dispatch did an exception job during these fires.  They got several phone calls from people that were worried their homes would catch on fire, they asked what they could do.  It was a very close call.”

They put out seven separate fires last Monday night, and had several found the next day that had burned themselves out.

There were no homes damaged and no injuries.

Flames got as close as within 10 feet of homes.

Chief Wooten said a local burn ban is still under consideration.

A bill before the Florida legislature would recognize five Indian Tribes in Florida.

They include the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida, the Santa Rosa Band of the Lower Muscogee, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians and the Muscogee Nation of Florida.

Having their existence acknowledged can allow for a continued government to government relationship with the state.

Tribe recognition also helps them get federal funding they need.

Cindy Helms argues this revenue can help tribes maintain their culture and their native language.

“We don’t need to be validated.  We know who we are and we know where we come from.  Show us publicaly that you as leaders know who we are, and that you value us as native American citizens of Florida.  We raise our family here, work here in all capacities, bolster this economy, worship here, participate in community activities, serve in the armed forces and recognize our right to vote.”

The bill specifies that it will not allow any tribe to establish and gaming that is currently prohibited or to claim any interest in land or real estate in the state.

The Florida housing market remains hot.

Jeff King with Highlands County Economic Development said they’ve also gotten more serious inquiries from industries wanting to relocate to smaller, rural counties.

King said the growth will also have an impact on agriculture.

He recently attended a conference that discussed changes coming like indoor agriculture in cities.

He said the population is going to continue to increase in rural counties.

“It’s a quality-of-life thing.  We work with tourism and a lot of people are moving in especially from in state.  Congestion and difficulty in getting around in the larger cities and people are looking for relief.  It is better to drive, much busier for us, but we are getting used to it.  For them they like it because they have fewer stop lights.”