TAVARES — With unusually dry conditions continuing to increase wildfire probability, the Lake County Public Safety Department enacted a countywide burn ban today, in accordance with County Code 10.5-75.
According to a letter issued by John Jolliff, Director/Fire Chief for the Public Safety Department, Lake County's Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) indicates 39 percent of the county is above 500, and 61 percent exceeds 600. The index has exceeded 500 for more than 3 weeks.
The mandatory burn ban affects all of unincorporated Lake County. The ban prohibits all outdoor burning that has not been specifically permitted by the Florida Forest Service. This includes burning yard waste, as defined by FAC 62-256.200(19); and bon fires and campfires on private or County property.
The mandatory burn ban shall remain in effect until further notice. Any burning within the County will be in violation and will be considered a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to a 60-day imprisonment and up to a $500 fine.
Although the use of gas grills and charcoal grills are 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 all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and dirt bikes are not suggested during times of high wildfire risk. Lawnmowers can also pose accidental ignition risks.
One of the more effective ways to reduce the possibility of wildfires is to clear underbrush or debris blown down in storms, as these dry plants and vegetation create more fuel for wildfires. It is recommended that homeowners try to maintain a 30-foot defensible space around their home to act as a firebreak. Other Wildfire prevention tips include:
- Prune all branches around the residence to a height of 8 to 10 feet. Keep trees adjacent to buildings free of dead or dying limbs and moss, and remove dead branches that extend over the roof.
- Remove all dead limbs, needles and debris from rain gutters.
- Avoid open burning completely, especially during this dry season.
- Regularly dispose of newspapers and rubbish.
- Rake leaves, dead limbs and twigs. Clear flammable vegetation from around and under structures.
- Store flammable materials in approved safety cans.
- Keep items available that can be used as fire tools, such as a rake, handsaw, chainsaw, bucket and shovel.
- Never throw a lighted cigarette from the window of a vehicle or walk off and leave a burning cigarette.
For more information about wildfire prevention, call the Lake County Public Safety Department at (352) 343-9458.