This is Florida’s Wildfire Awareness Week and the Florida Forest Service and state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried offers a warning about outdoor burning.
Since January, nearly 750 wildfires have burned more than 8,200 acres in Florida. Most were caused by people. Currently, the are 62 active wildfires burning over 1,740 acres across the state.
“Wildfire Awareness Week is an important reminder of the devastating effect wildfires can have on our communities and natural resources,” said Fried. “As we continue to navigate through these difficult and uncertain times, it’s critical for everyone to be aware, use extreme caution, and follow the law, ensuring the safety of your family, communities and our firefighters.”
The leading causes of wildfires this time of year are escaped yard debris burning and unauthorized debris burns. The Florida Forest Service administers Florida’s outdoor burning and forest fire laws. Some burns, such as piles larger than 8 feet in diameter and broadcast acreage burns, require an authorization.
Burning yard waste does not require an authorization as long as residents meet the following requirements:
Meet the required setbacks and no local, city or county ordinances prohibit burning;
The yard waste was generated on your property and will fit in an 8-foot diameter pile or non-combustible container;
The fire is ignited after 8:00 a.m. central time or 9:00 a.m. eastern time and is extinguished one hour before sunset.
Yard waste is any vegetative debris such as grass clippings, brush, leaves, tree limbs and palm fronds that are a result of yard maintenance. It is illegal to burn household garbage (including paper products), treated lumber, plastics, rubber materials, tires, pesticides, paint and aerosol containers.
“Spring and early summer are the peak of Florida’s year-round wildfire season, making it necessary for residents to be extra careful with outdoor burning,” said Erin Albury, the state forester and the director of the Florida Forest Service. “With the rainfall below normal and current weather conditions across the state, I urge all residents to understand their role in preventing wildfires and avoiding further tragedy in our state.”
All residents should adhere to the following outdoor fire safety requirements:
Never leave a fire unattended;
Never burn on windy days or when humidity is below 30 percent;
Keep a water source and suppression equipment on-hand;
Completely extinguish the fire before leaving it.
Florida Wildfire Awareness Week was created in recognition of Florida’s devastating 1998 wildfire season, when more than half a million acres burned, and 337 structures were damaged or destroyed by wildfires. The wildfire threat in North Florida is substantially greater than normal given the nearly 3 million acres impacted and 72 million tons of trees broken, uprooted or blown over by Hurricane Michael in October 2018. Floridians and visitors alike are urged to take action to protect their homes and property before a wildfire starts and be prepared to evacuate if needed.
The Florida Forest Service, a division of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, manages more than 1 million acres of state forests and provides forest management assistance on more than 17 million acres of private and community forests. The Florida Forest Service is also responsible for protecting homes, forestland and natural resources from the devastating effects of wildfire on more than 26 million acres.