Florida Imposes Burn Bans in Three Counties Amid Severe Drought Conditions

Three Florida counties, Indian River, Brevard, and Sarasota, have issued burn bans due to severe drought conditions and high wildfire risk. A 155-acre brush fire broke out in St. Lucie County, contained by Saturday, with officials attributing the cause to lawn equipment.

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Bijay Laxmi
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Florida Imposes Burn Bans in Three Counties Amid Severe Drought Conditions

Florida Imposes Burn Bans in Three Counties Amid Severe Drought Conditions

Florida is facing conflicting weather conditions, with the Panhandle and North Florida receiving heavy rainfall while Central Florida grapples with severe drought. As a result, three counties - Indian River, Brevard, and Sarasota - have issued burn bans due to the high risk of wildfires.

Why this matters: Severe drought conditions and burn bans have significant implications for public safety, as wildfires can quickly spread and cause devastating damage to properties and infrastructure. Furthermore, the increased risk of wildfires during drought periods highlights the need for proactive measures to preventhuman-caused fires, which are the leading cause of wildfires in the state.

According to the May 12 Keetch-Byram Drought Index, Indian River County is experiencing the worst drought conditions, followed by Sarasota, Highlands, and St. Lucie counties. Thirteen counties in Florida have KBDI numbers higher than 500, indicating dryness.

Indian River County declared a local state of emergency on May 7 and a mandatory burn ban for the entire county, prohibiting all outdoor burning unless specifically permitted by the Florida Forestry Service. The ban is in effect until further notice.

Brevard County implemented a burn ban on May 8, prohibiting bonfires, campfires, trash burning, and other incineration throughout the county. Exceptions include state-permitted burns, barbecue grills, authorized public fireworks displays, and fireworks sales.

Sarasota County announced a burn ban on May 5, prohibiting all outdoor burning unless a permit has been issued. The ban applies to all unincorporated areas of Sarasota County and the city of Sarasota. Exceptions include cooking on barbecue grills or pits that meet specific size requirements and other valid state or county authorized burns. The ban will automatically lift after the drought index falls below 500 for seven consecutive days.

Over the weekend, a 155-acre brush fire broke out near Peacock Road and Okeechobee Road in St. Lucie County, close to the St. Lucie County Fairgrounds. The fire was contained by 10 p.m. Saturday, but residents may still see smoke in the area as multiple piles within the containment area continue to smolder. Forestry officials believe the fire was ignited by lawn equipment in the area.

"When the county was out here mowing, you hit something in the dirt, and the next thing you knew it sparked," explained Dave Grubich with the Florida Forest Service. "That one little spark in this dry grass is all it took."

The Florida Department of Health in St. Lucie County has cautioned the public about smoke from the brush fire, suggesting tips such as staying indoors with windows and doors closed, using air conditioning to filter the air, avoiding fans that can stir up particles, keeping hydrated, and avoiding strenuous activities, especially for those with pre-existing medical conditions.

The Florida Department of Agriculture notes that humans are the leading cause of wildfires in the state, despite Florida being the lightning capital of the U.S. With the drought index nearly reaching 600, even a spark can cause a fire, highlighting the importance of taking precautions to prevent wildfires during this period of severe drought conditions.

Key Takeaways

  • Three Florida counties (Indian River, Brevard, and Sarasota) issue burn bans due to severe drought.
  • 13 counties have KBDI numbers higher than 500, indicating dryness and high wildfire risk.
  • Indian River, Brevard, and Sarasota counties prohibit outdoor burning unless permitted.
  • A 155-acre brush fire breaks out in St. Lucie County, possibly ignited by lawn equipment.
  • Humans are the leading cause of wildfires in Florida, highlighting the need for prevention measures.