North Florida's recent cold snap may do more than turn your lawn brown. Freezing temperatures can kill grasses and shrubs around your house and in adjacent forest land increasing the chance that a wildfire could start.
Dormant winter vegetation is already dry due to lower moisture content in the leaves of plants. When combined with recent frost kills, a simple debris burning event can turn into a wildfire disaster. Dry brush and grasses can easily ignite with even the smallest spark. To prevent outdoor fires from escaping your control, remember to use caution when burning and follow all local regulations. Avoid burning yard debris on windy days because fires can be extremely difficult to control once they have escaped.
Fire activity often increases around Christmas because of the tendency to burn wrapping paper, which is light weight and easily airborne, with other yard debris. Open burning to reduce yard trash (vegetative matter resulting from yard maintenance operations) and household paper products, generated on occupied residential premises of not more than two family units, is allowed in most counties providing the following requirements are met:
Smoke, soot, odors, visible emissions, heat, flame or radiation does not create a nuisance.
In rural counties the open burning must be 100 feet or more from any occupied building other than that owned or leased by the individual doing the burning and 50 feet or more from any public road.
In non-rural counties such as Alachua and Marion, the open burning must be 300 feet or more from any occupied building other than that owned or leased by the individual doing the burning and 100 feet or more from any public road.
The open burning must be ignited after 9 a.m. and extinguished one hour before sunset.
The open burning must be 50 feet or more from any residence where the burning is being conducted.
The open burning is attended and adequate fire extinguishing equipment is readily available at all times.
The open burning is enclosed in a pit or barrel, covered by a metal mesh and is set back at least 25 feet from any forest or woodlands.
Remember to report all possible wildfires immediately.
Open burning is not allowed in certain non-rural counties such as Duval, where municipal solid waste collection services for yard trash are available. Call your local Division of Forestry for more information on burning yard debris.
Annaleasa Winter, Wildfire Mitigation Specialist (904) 266-5008 Cell (904) 705-3931.