Commissioner Nicole “Nikki” Fried and the Florida Forest Service this week are urging residents to exercise caution with outdoor burning during Florida’s Wildfire Awareness Week, April 7 – 13. Since January, 489 wildfires have burned more than 7,360 acres in Florida. Most were caused by people.
“Wildfire Awareness Week is an important reminder of the devastating effect wildfires can have on our communities and natural resources,” said Commissioner Fried. “Just last week, we saw this first-hand near Panama City as a small debris fire turned into a 600-acre wildfire overnight. It’s critical for everyone to be aware, use extreme caution, and follow the law, ensuring the safety of your family, neighbors and all Floridians.”
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 Jim Karels, State Forester and Director of the Florida Forest Service. “With the unprecedented volume of debris Hurricane Michael left on the ground and 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 currently ten times greater than normal, given the 3 million acres impacted and 72 million tons of tree debris left behind 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. Learn more about burning outdoors in Florida by visiting FloridaForestService.com.
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.