Illegal Backyard Burning
Over the past couple of weeks you've seen just how dangerous florida wildfires can be. Fire offcials say some of these fires are started by people burning illegally. Sometimes they just don't know the rules. Last year, Marion county alone responded to nearly 1300 illegal burn calls, and the authorities have no sympathy for people who don't know the rules.
"Until we get the lightning coming in June and July all those fires would be man caused, human starts," says Ludie Ehlers of the Florida Department of Forestry.
Illegal backyard burning is one of the leading causes of wildfires getting out of control in the state of florida. Keeping an eye on the weather conditions and knowing when its safe to burn is key. If humidity is expected to be low for an extended period of time and winds are gusty, it is not a good time to burn.
"We don't want to have to chase a wildfire, we don't want someone's property to be destroyed as a result of carelessness," says Heather Danenhower of Marion County Fire Rescue.
You may be surprised to learn burning within the city limits of Gainesville and Ocala is illegal. Those who live outside the city limits are required to burn at least 50 feet from public roadways and 25 feet from their home or from other brush in the area. Your backyard burn needs to be 150 feet away from a neighboring structure, which is half the length of a football field. If that regulation and all the other ones are not met, you will face a fine. If it is your first offense, you will not walk away with a warning, but with a $50 fine. Do it again and the fine increases to 130-bucks.
"Sometimes we have to hit the pocketbook for the message to get through," says Heather Danenhower.
The law also affects what you burn. Yard debree like leaves, yard clippings and loose limbs are perfectly legal to burn, as long is it is on your property. Things like household garbabe and paper and plastic products are not.
''There are citizens who truly do not know the burn guidelines, but the big message there is if you don't know what the guidelines are, educate yourself before you burn," says Heather Danenhower.
For more information on the backyard burn guidelines in your area contact your local city or county officials. If you want to learn more about wildfires in general check out the Florida Division of Forestry's website at www. fl-dof.com.
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