After consideration of current fire conditions across the state and locally, Flagler and St. Johns county officials have lifted the burn ban in effect in both counties since December. Dry, low-humidity conditions have subsided, though should drought conditions return, the burn ban would be reinstated.
Although critical fire conditions have lessened, fire officials still discourage the burning of residential yard debris. Flagler County Fire Rescue Chief Don Petito said despite recent rains, conditions are still ripe for wildfires and a few weeks of dry weather would put the county right back into a ban on open burning. The county is conducting twice daily reconnaissance flights with Fire Flight, the county’s helicopter, to look for brush fires in remote areas.
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“That allows us to spot fires when they are small and douse them with the helicopter water bucket,” Petito said. “And if need be bring in Forestry and ground crews to stop the fire in its tracks before it becomes a threat to the more populated areas of the of the county.”
Petito said municipal, county and Division of Forestry crews will remain on high alert despite the lifting of the burn ban. The fine grasses and other vegetation dries out quickly after a rainfall and can still quickly spread a fire from a tossed cigarette butt.
The ban was enacted on December 21 and reevaluated each week since. Weather conditions and the Division of Forestry’s Drought Index are used to determine whether conditions require continuation of the ban.
When Flagler County enacted the ban the drought index was 638. The index runs from zero, means the ground is totally saturated, to 800, which would be desert-like conditions. As of Monday Flagler Count averaged 312 on the scale with some areas as low as 123 and others as dry as 674.
The ban provided under state law declares a local state of emergency and affects all county residents whether they live in a city or in the unincorporated areas of the county.
State law requires homeowners to conduct open burning either in a barrel or in a pile no bigger than 8 feet in diameter with a charged hose or shovel nearby. No burning can be conducted on windy days. No burning before 9 a.m. and the fire must be out one hour before sunset. The fire must be 25 feet from any brush, 50 feet from a paved road and 150 feet from an occupied structure not leased or owned by the person doing the burning.
City residents should check with their city government for additional city regulations. Agricultural open burning requires a permit from the Division of Forestry. For additional information contact Flagler County Fire Rescue at 386/313-4200.