The combination of recent hard freezes in North Central Florida along with an average drought index of 619 has created higher than normal risks for wildfires.
The index is based on a scale from 0 to 800 with readings in the winter months over 540 considered severe. And hard freezes kill and dry-out grasses and other light vegetation that helps spread fire. Wildland fire officials are urging citizens to use caution.
While yard debris burning is allowed in most outlying county areas without a permit, citizens must follow very specific guidelines to burn safely and legally.
Backyard Burning Guidelines
* Check with your local fire department and the Division of Forestry (DOF) to make sure it is legal to burn in your area.
* Burners must comply with county/city as well as DOF fire ordinances.
* Make sure you meet the required setbacks: 25 ft. from your house and forested areas, 50 ft. from a public paved road and 150 ft. from other occupied buildings.
* Burn only yard waste, no household garbage (includes paper products and newspapers).
* Don’t burn on windy days.
* Never leave a fire unattended.
* Keep a water hose or shovel handy in case your fire escapes.
* Make sure your smoke does not obstruct visibility on nearby roads.
* Be sure your fire is completely out before you leave.
* Use solid waste pick up in the city limits.
Remember...If your fire escapes, you may be liable for costs of suppression and damage to the property of others.
For those who need permits, the DOF will issue authorizations on a daily basis depending on the weather conditions. For more information on burn permits, call the DOF at (352) 955-2010 or visit www.fl-dof.com.