During the May 9, 2017 Regular County Commission Meeting, the countywide burn ban was extended. It was originally signed on April 25, 2017. The ban will continue to be extended until fire conditions change and it is no longer needed. The ban was issued due to the unusually dry weather conditions increasing the probability of wildfires. The mandatory ban affects all of Alachua County, including rural and municipal areas. It will remain in effect until formally terminated by a majority of the Alachua County Commission.
The burn ban prohibits all outdoor burning that has not been specifically permitted by the Florida Division of Forestry, as well as the use of any fireworks, sparklers, flares, or other pyrotechnic devices except for public displays requiring a permit. Campfires may be permitted within designated recreational areas only, pursuant to applicable regulations and guidelines.
Although the use of LPG/LNG grills and charcoal grills is permitted, the public is encouraged to keep a constant watch for any stray sparks or embers while cooking outdoors. Additionally, due to the potential for accidental ignitions, the use of motorized equipment such as ATVs and dirt bikes is discouraged during times of high wildfire risk. Please bear in mind that lawnmowers, both push and riding, also pose accidental ignition risks. Citizens are asked to exercise extreme caution during the burn ban.
Homeowners can reduce the risk of damage from wildfires by clearing the area around their homes of underbrush or dry plants/vegetation as these items create fuel for wildfires. It is also important to ensure that roofs and gutters are clear of trees and debris.
Alachua County’s Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) is currently 454 with ninety percent of the County above 400. The KBDI is a continuous reference scale for estimating the dryness of the soil and duff layers. The index increases for each day without rain (the amount of increase depends on the daily high temperature) and decreases when it rains. The scale ranges from 0 (no moisture deficit) to 800. As the index rating increases so do the chances that a wildfire can occur and spread.
Alachua County Fire Chief Bill Northcutt said, “It is important that we are proactive in preventing wildfires from occurring locally as State resources are being redeployed to assist with a large number of fires actively occurring in Florida.”
Any burning within the County during the imposed ban will be in violation of Chapter 27 of the Alachua County Code, sections 10.08 and 10.09 and section 252.50 of Florida Statutes. It will be considered a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to a 60-day imprisonment and up to a $500.00 fine. Persons responsible for unlawful burning could also bear costs associated with extinguishing fires.
For more information, visit the Alachua County Fire Rescue website or contact Alachua County Fire Marshal John Adler at 863-781-1452.