Fire Officials remind residents to burn responsibly

Wildfire dangers are elevated this week due to forecast hot and dry conditions and the Florida Forest Service, Okeechobee District wants to remind residents to burn responsibly. Burning yard waste does not require a burn authorization from the Florida Forest Service as long as your burn meets specific requirements and there are no local, city or county ordinances in place that prohibit burning.

In some urbanized cities, open burning is prohibited; check with your local Florida Forest Service office before you burn. The Florida Forest Service can provide you with the specific requirements and burning hours before you strike that match. To burn yard waste you must at a minimum locate the fire 25 feet away from your house and 150 feet from any other occupied building, 50 feet from paved public roads, and 25 feet away from forests/brush.

“Additionally, keep your yard waste fire no more than eight feet in diameter and create a fire break — a bare dirt area around the burn area,” explains Forest Area Supervisor Joe deBree with the Florida Forest Service. “Keep your fire small by adding to the fire as it burns down rather than burning everything at once in one large pile”. Before you ignite your fire, get a hose ready and keep a shovel and metal rake on hand. A shovel allows you to smother sparks and fire with dirt in an emergency while the rake allows you to quickly move logs or branches that roll off the fire.”

Burn only yard waste from your own property, such as leaves, small branches, grass, and other yard clippings. It is illegal to burn household garbage such as plastic, paper products, pesticides, plastics, rubber materials, tires, used oil, paint and aerosol containers, and any treated wood. It is also illegal to burn construction garbage such as asbestos containing materials, roofing materials, and asphalt.

Fires need your constant attention so plan to burn on a day when you can be there the whole time. Don’t leave, even for a minute without getting someone to watch it for you. When you’re finished burning, douse the fire with water and spread out the coals. Keep dousing and spreading the coals until the entire area feels cold to the touch.

Most importantly, if your yard waste fire escapes, you may be held liable for costs of suppression and damages that occur.

Note: Piles greater than eight feet in diameter will require: 1) authorization from the Florida Forest Service, 2) suppression equipment on scene, and 3) meeting additional setback requirements.

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. Learn more at FloridaForestService.com.

The Immokalee Bulletin is published every Thursday.

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