Common questions on outdoor fires

Question: Is it legal to burn outdoors in Alachua County ?

Answer: It is legal to burn in Alachua County with restrictions. It is very important for anyone considering an outdoor fire to understand the laws regulating the practice. The Florida Forestry Service is the agency which regulates outdoor burning in Alachua County. Please click here to access their website. This site can explain the requirements and restrictions on outdoor fires.

Question: Why does it seem we are having more/worse fire in modern times ?

Answer: Fire in an a very important part of the history of Florida. Florida through most of its history was glass lands with widely spaced pines and occasional Oak Hammocks. Fires were common in these grass lands and the ecology of many of the plants and animals were dependent on these natural fires. With the arrival of Native Americans, and then to the early Europeans settlers the practice  of allowing fires to burn and even starting fires continued. It wasn't until more recent times that fire became the "enemy" and was extinguished at every opportunity. The State also has greatly increased our population. What a hundred years ago would have been an unpopulated area, today there are likely homes in the area. The issue with this practice is that dangerous levels of brush and under growth have built fuels to dangerous levels. Natural plants such as Palmetto and Gallberry burn with an incredible release of heat. They will also burn in humidity levels that other fuels elsewhere in the country would not burn. Greater public education and understanding of the need for prescribed fires means that wildfire are less intense when they do burn.

 Question: What role does Alachua County Fire Rescue play in wildfire suppression?

 Answer: Alachua County Fire Rescue's role in a wildfire is straight forward, we are there to ensure people's lives are protected, provide structural protection and assist the Florida Forestry Service in suppression. The Florida Forestry Service and Alachua County Fire Rescue have a long cooperative relationship. It is very common to see units of both agencies engaged anytime there is a wildfire in our community.  

Question: What is a burn ban and when are they enacted ?

Answer: From time to time conditions require us to limit outdoor burning. These ordinances when in place cause a significant impact to a number of businesses which have the need to burn. For an county ordinance to be adopted a process need to take place. Before any ordinance would be enacted by the Board of County Commissioners a discussion will take place between the agencies that have the authority to propose and the responsibility to enforce such an ordinance. We decision has to be made that the danger to the community outweighs the impact that such a burn restriction would have on the community.

Question: What about the animals? Doesn't the fire kill a vast number of creatures?

Answer: The truth is that fires have and will continue to be an important part of our State. We have the ability to manage our forests and wildlands in such a way as to benefit all. The majority of woodland creates have developed with fire through time. The vast majority are able to escape either by going underground, running away or flying out of the danger area. It is very common to see woodland creates immediately move back into an area that has burned due to the benefits the fires bring. Increases in open spaces and new vegetation, release of seeds and seedlings that animals need, decreases in parasites and nuisance insects are a few of these benefits.