Multiple counties in Florida have issued “burn bans” as crews continue to fight wildfires across the state. Collier, Hendry and Polk have issued complete burn bans along with Alachua, Gilcrist and Indian River. Several other counties have issued lesser restrictions on fires and burning.
The burn bans vary from county to county but include bans on campfires, bonfires, trash fires, fireworks and even larger grill pits. With so many people eager to get out in the wilderness as spring turns to summer, authorities are urging people to use caution and common sense to keep risks low.
“We have held off as long as we possibly can on issuing this burn ban,” said Polk County Fire Chief Rob Weech, reports WFLA. “But conditions are favorable for the rapid development and spread of brush fires and we need to take every step necessary to ensure the safety of everyone. We also don’t want anyone to lose property or investments due to fire.”
Even though the Memorial Day weekend brought rain to much of the state, rain alone isn’t enough to put out wildfires or prevent new ones. Much of southern Florida is experiencing abnormally dry weather and even light drought conditions according to the National Integrated Drought Information System, or NIDIS.
“There are currently 66 active wildfires across the state,” said the Florida Forestry Service. “As temperatures continue to rise and with minimal rainfall in the forecast, it is more important than ever for Floridians to be cautious and understand their role in preventing and preparing for a wildfire.”
The Florida Forestry Service is asking people not to build fires or burn trash or debris in dry or windy weather. They are also encouraging people to clear their yards and property and put together emergency supply kits in case they have to leave the area.
The Florida Forest Service lists the entire Bay area as a high risk for fires. Weech even cautions Floridians to be mindful of where they flick their butts. “People will need to be careful with how they handle barbecues and how they dispose of cigarettes,” said Weech.
What started the wildfires is still unknown, though fortunately so far, there have been no reports of injuries or deaths, or even significant property damage. But the threat is still high.
“We don’t know how they started, that’s certainly a question mark,” said Weech. “The fire conditions are just bad right now. Extreme caution is needed. Any small issue can turn into a big issue.”
Ordinances for violating the burn bans may vary, but include fines up to $500 and up to 60 days in jail. For more information on how to prepare and prevent wildfires, visit Be Wildfire Ready.