TAVARES — The Lake County Public Safety Department has issued a countywide burn ban due to extremely dry weather conditions increasing the probability of wildfires. In accordance with County Code 10.5-75, the ban prohibits all outdoor burning that has not been specifically permitted by the Florida Division of Forestry. This includes burning yard waste or building recreational fires.
Lake County's Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) indicates 31 percent of the county is above 500, with the index exceeding 500 for more than 3 weeks.
The mandatory burn ban will remain in effect until further notice. Any person responsible for unlawful burning faces a minimum fine of $150 per incident, and could bear costs associated with extinguishing the fires.
Lake County firefighters are currently battling a 700-acre wildfire in the northern area of the county along State Road 44 in Eustis.
Structural protection strike teams, consisting of personnel from Lake County Fire Rescue, the cities of Eustis, Tavares, Mount Dora, Leesburg, Minneola, Groveland, Clermont and The Villages, have committed resources for immediate deployment should a wildfire threaten property.
“Partnerships are essential in a community such as Lake County to protect all citizens and property owners from dangerous wildfires,” said Lake County Fire Rescue Chief Jim Dickerson. “The strike teams were crucial to saving 20 homes over the weekend.”
Under the burn ban, outdoor grilling is permitted, however residents should keep a constant watch for any stray sparks or embers. ATVs, dirt bikes, and even lawn mowers can pose a risk for accidental ignition. An effective way to reduce the possibility of wildfires near homes is to clear underbrush or debris blown down during storms, as dry plants and vegetation create fuel for wildfires.
Residents are urged to comply fully with the burn ban until weather conditions improve and the ban can be safely lifted. Residents are also asked to immediately report any signs of smoke or fire by calling 911.
The career firefighters of Lake County Fire Rescue protect county residents and visitors in an area covering approximately 1,200 square miles, with nearly 70,000 residences and up to 2,000 commercial properties. For up-to-date news on Lake County Fire Rescue, visit, www.facebook.com/LakeCountyFireRescue, or www.twitter.com/lakefirePIO.