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Burning ignites after ban is lifted

People have returned to burning trash. But authorities say they still must be careful.

By JAMIE MALERNEE

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 6, 2001


With the burn ban lifted, residents are lighting up in full force, burning lawn trash and other items at a rate that has fire officials advising caution.

Since Tuesday, at least 40 Spring Hill residents have watched their lawn debris go up in smoke each day, prompting complaints from neighbors. No fires have gotten out of control, but authorities are warning people to obtain proper permits and follow safety rules to keep that from changing.

"Just because we've had some rain doesn't mean it's negated all the dangerous conditions," said Chief Mike Morgan of Spring Hill Fire Rescue. "These fires can still spread."

The local ban was lifted Tuesday; the state lifted its ban March 30.

Extreme drought conditions remain.

Last year was the driest on record for the Southwest Water Management District, which includes Hernando. The total rainfall for Hernando, Citrus, Sumter, Marion, Lake and Levy counties was 36.72 inches, compared with the usual average of 53.98 inches.

Rainfall was up in March, 4.61 inches as of March 28, compared with the past average of 3.62. The Keetch-Byram Drought Index, a rating for an area's surface dryness, also dropped to 354 on Thursday, down from 579 on March 24. On the index, 800 means extreme drought; zero is full saturation.

Burning rules

Here are some of the rules anyone burning trash should follow, according to Chuck Schneider of the Florida Division of Forestry. For authorization and requirements, call 754-6777.

No permit needed for minor lawn debris. A good rule is if it's too big or heavy to rake yourself (dead trees, large branches, large piles of trash), a permit is needed.

Debris must be burned in a small pit or barrel with a wire mesh over it to control ash.

All burning must occur between 9 a.m. to an hour before sunset

Fire must be a safe distance from other structures -- 50 feet from one's own home, 100 feet from neighbors and 100 feet from the street -- and monitored at all times.

Tools required to put out the fire, such as a water hose, rakes or shovel.

Residents are asked to notify local fire departments before burning.

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