Because of the extreme fire weather conditions Nassau County firefighters have responded to many brush fire calls recently. Since the start of 2012, 32 wild fires have been reported and they have burned over 57 acres in Nassau County. As of May 9, 2012, Nassau County is not currently under a burn ban. The Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) is used to describe the soil moisture level. The lowest level is 0, when the ground is saturated and the highest level is 800, when the ground is desert like. Currently, 5% of Nassau County is in the 400-500 range, 69% is in the 500-600 range and 25% is in the 600-700 range. The current average for Nassau County is a 565 and the maximum recorded is 666. The vegetation is very dry due to the below average rainfall. We are currently below average rainfall by more than 8 inches.
Some types of outdoor burning require prior authorization by the Florida Forest Service. You do not need authorization to burn piles of yard waste, which is vegetative in nature, such as: grass clippings, brush, leaves, tree limbs, palm fronds, etc…, that are a result of yard maintenance. The yard waste must be in a pile that is less than 8 feet in diameter or placed in a non-combustible container. It should be done at least 25 feet from your home and any dense underbrush. It is illegal to burn any household garbage including paper products, treated lumber, plastics, rubber materials, tires, pesticides, and paint or other aerosol containers. More than 15 acres in Nassau County has burned since the start of 2012, due to illegal and unauthorized burning.
Whenever you burn be sure to have a means of suppression available at all times. This could be: a bucket of water, a hose, a bucket of dirt, or a fire extinguisher. Never leave a fire unattended, as this can have devastating consequences. Never burn on a windy day or a day when winds are forecasted. The wind can transport the embers to underbrush where a wildfire can easily ignite, due to the extreme drought conditions. Be sure your debris fire or camp fire is completely extinguished before you leave.
You should have a minimum 30 foot defensiveable space around your home. This space needs to be free of combustible materials and underbrush. A defensible space smaller than 30 feet makes it difficult for firefighters to maneuver while attempting to control and contain the fire. This is especially important because the special bulldozers from the Florida Forest Service cannot operate in small spaces. If the space is too small your home may ignite because the fire is able to get close enough. Low limbs need to be trimmed so they don’t become ladders for wildfires. If not the fire can then jump from tree-top to tree-top.
If a pile you are burning gets out of control call 9-1-1 immediately. If your fire escapes you may be liable for the cost of suppression and damage to the property of others. If you notice an illegal burn please contact the fire department. More than 7 acres has been burned by arsonists in Nassau County this year. If you see suspicious behavior or a suspicious fire please call the Florida arson hotline at 1-800-342-5869.
If you have any questions about burning regulations contact the Nassau County Forest Supervisor, Mike Work at 845-7121. You can find more information about the laws and specific regulations at www.floridaforestservice.com. For information about burn bans in Nassau County contact a fire official. You can check our website at www.ratliffvfd.org for current wildfire locations and fire weather conditions. Remember, a dry season does not mean we must have a very active wildfire season! If you must burn yard debris, please burn with extreme caution as the fire danger is very high.