The wildfires that occurred in central Florida in 1998 are discussed. These fires were largely the result of lightning, although some were set by arsonists. Throughout June and early July, these wildfires torched vast areas of Florida, causing as much economic and environmental damage as a category 4 or 5 hurricane. The intensity of the fires produced thick smoke that made breathing difficult for those with pre-existing lung and heart conditions, including children with asthma. This meant that the disaster suddenly became a public health threat that required the expertise of medical and environmental staff, as well as firefighters, public works personnel, and the police.