Another Dry Season…Learn Before You Burn
It is forecasted that we will have a very active wildfire season this year, similar to last year. Escaped debris burning is the leading cause of wildfires in Florida. Since the start of 2012, 500 wildfires have been reported with over 6,536 acres burned in the State of Florida. As of February 12, 2012, Nassau County is not currently under a burn ban, but don’t be surprised if one is placed into effect within the next several months. 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, 25% of Nassau County is in the 300-400 range with the other 75% of the county being in the 400-500 range. The current average for Nassau County is a 423. The vegetation is very dry due to the below average rainfall that is continuing from last year. Many Nassau County citizens live in close proximity to forests, woodlands, or other forms of dense underbrush. Everyone can help protect Nassau County from wildfires.
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 have been generated on the property on which it is burned. The yard waste must be in a pile that is less than 8 feet in diameter or placed in a non-combustible container. The fire must be ignited after 9:00 AM and extinguished one hour before sunset. The burning must be at least 50 feet from a public roadway and 150 feet from occupied buildings that you do not own. It should be done at least 25 feet from your home and any dense underbrush, including forests. You will need Florida Forest Service authorization to burn piles greater than 8 feet in diameter in addition to any agriculture or land clearing purposes. In addition to having Florida Forest Service authorization you must also have suppression equipment on scene and follow other setbacks, per the Florida Forest Service rules. It is illegal to burn any household garbage including paper products, treated lumber, plastics, rubber materials, tires, pesticides, and paint or other aerosol containers.
The following are ways to help protect our beautiful county from wildfires. Please follow the rules as stated above. The Florida Forest Service administers all of Florida’s outdoor burning and forest fire laws. 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 it can have devastating consequences. Never burn on a windy day or a day when winds are forecasted. The wind will transport the embers to underbrush where a wildfire can easily ignite. Be sure your debris fire or camp fire is completely extinguished before you leave. It is recommended that you have a minimum 30 foot defensible space around your home. This space needs to be free of combustible materials and underbrush. This space has three important functions: it will protect your home from a brush fire; it will protect the brush from igniting if your home catches fire, and it allows the firefighters enough space to extinguish either a brush or structure fire. Keep leaves, pine needles, moss, and twigs off of the roof and out of the gutters so that flying embers can not ignite them. If there are any trees on your property it is recommended that you keep the lowest limb a minimum of 15 feet from the ground. Low limbs can become ladders for wildfires and the fire can then jump from tree-top to tree-top. If your home has a chimney keep limbs at least 15 feet from the exhaust so that the limbs can not ignite.
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 contact the fire department.
If you have any questions about the burning regulations or you need authorization contact the Nassau County Forest Supervisor, Mike Work at 845-7121. You can find more information about the laws and specific regulations at floridaforestservice.com. For information on Nassau County burn bans contact a fire official or check our website at http://www.ratliffvfd.org. Remember, a dry season does not mean many brush fires can’t be prevented! Help do your part to protect Nassau County by burning yard waste safely!
Public Information Officer
Ratliff Community Volunteer Fire Department
February 16, 2012