It's the dry season in Gulf Coast states from Texas to Florida. And that means a mounting risk of wildfire. In Florida, indications are that the state may face an early start to the wildfire season, according to Orlando TV station WOFL FOX 35 (“ Wildfire season set to scorch Central Florida ,” by Steve Gehlbach). Forecasters at the National Weather Service’s Melbourne, Florida, office say the state is several months into an extended drought already, with dry conditions that are more typical of later in the year. Already firefighters have had to contend with a 13,000-acre brush fire in Brevard County, the station reports. A series of winter freezes that killed grass and other vegetation have created an abundance of dry fire fuel in wild country, the Tampa Tribune reports (“ Cold, dry weather jump-starts wildfire season ,” by Neil Johnson). And on January 7, the Weather Service issued a “red flag” fire warning for parts of the Florida panhandle because of dry, windy conditions, the Panama City News Herald reported (“ Winds to generate rip currents on the coast, possible wildfire conditions inland ,” by Tony Simmons). The dry conditions may be the result of “La Nina” climate conditions, according to the Florida Division of Forestry (“ Increased Fire Danger Predicted for 201: La Niña and Wildfire Activity in Florida ,” by Sean Luchs, Meteorologist). The state warned, “This past year was strongly influenced by an El Niño event, and saw reduced wildfire activity as expected. Currently, we are experiencing La Niña conditions, and this La Niña is expected to continue through at least early 2011. The potential for an abnormally warm and dry winter in Florida during La Niña episodes could set the stage for greater than normal wildfire activity in 2011. This potential could be compounded in areas that are already abnormally dry or experiencing moderate drought.” This interactive online fire map from the Florida Division of Forestry already shows a scattering of incidents, early in the season. Texas is also experiencing drought, with an extremely high risk of wildfire. The Texas Forest Service website advised citizens. The service’s website warns, “With fuels remaining critically dry in much of the state, a Type I helicopter and an air attack aircraft remain in place in Abilene. The U.S. Drought Monitor indicates that nearly all of the state is in moderate to extreme drought and the 90-day temperature and precipitation outlook maps forecast little relief in drought conditions. All Predictive Service Areas (PSA’s) in the state have Energy Release Components (ERC’s) at or above the 90th percentile, with the exception of the High Plains area which has received some recent moisture.” The Coastal Plains region and the Upper Gulf Coast are at or above the 97th percentile for wildfire risk, the agency estimates.