Crime & Public Safety Beat: Hillsborough Extends Emergency Ban On Open Burning Due To Fire Risk

By Tamas Mondovics

While the occasional afternoon storm does bring some relief, it is hardly enough to quench the thirst for rain, the lack of which has prompted Hillsborough County officials to enact the first of several open burn bans last month.

With warm temperatures and dry conditions combined, which has increased the danger of wildfires in the county, the Emergency Policy Group first approved an executive order banning open burning in Hillsborough County on April 27.

Since then, the Hillsborough County Board of County Commission has voted to extend the ban three separate times including the last one (at the writing of this article), which extended the ban until the end of May.

Under the executive order a local state of emergency is thus declared, prohibiting all outdoor open burning. The only exception is burning that has been specifically allowed in writing by the Florida Forest Service.  

The order in part states that, “Any authorized outdoor burning shall be conducted in strict compliance with state statutes, agency rules, or any other written conditions imposed by the agency or department. Any person conducting outdoor burning authorized by a state agency shall provide a copy of the written authorization to the Emergency Dispatch Center no less than 24 hours prior to conducting the burn. The order bans fireworks and sparklers.
Outdoor grilling is allowed, as long as the flames are contained within a grill or other fireproof container, and the fire is constantly attended and extinguished fully. By law, the order can be made for no more than seven days. If conditions persist, the order can be extended.”

Since the initial order, County officials have been urging residents to be vigilant and make use of some safety tips including the ones below:

• Remove fuels that can lead flames to your home or that can be ignited by windblown embers.

• Clear away dead grass, leaves, twigs, and branches from structures, roofs, rain gutters, decks, and walkways.

• Store firewood at least 30 ft. from occupied structures.

• Plant landscaping that retains moisture and resists ignition, such as native, fire-resistant vegetation.

• Help emergency responders find your home faster by making sure that street numbers are easy to read.

• Install metal screening that blocks embers from entering structures.

• Know where the closest firefighting water source is to your home or building.

• Dispose of cigarette butts properly.

• Pick up light-refracting metal items, such as soda cans, that can spark a fire.

• Don’t park vehicles over high grass that could come into contact with hot engines and other components.

According to Hillsborough County Fire Rescue no large wildfires have yet occurred in Hillsborough County.

Residents and visitors are also asked register for HCFL Alert, the County’s official public notification system for emergency and urgent alerts.

To receive messages by email, phone and text, visit HCFLGov.net/HCFLAlert.

For more information and valuable links, visit HCFLGov.net/StaySafe.