Bartow, Fla. (March 31, 2020) – Due to dry weather conditions over an extensive period of time Polk County Fire Rescue has issued a burn ban.
The increased risk of brush fires and uncontrolled fires are a threat to the public health, safety and general welfare of Polk County. Over the past weekend, Polk County saw seven total brush fires ranging from one to 290 acres in size. Three of the seven fires scorched areas over 100 acres. Currently, there are also no signs of improvement for these dangerous fire conditions in the near future.
“Current conditions and future forecasts are favorable for the rapid development and spread of brush fires in our county,” said Fire Chief Robert Weech. “We must take every step necessary to ensure the safety of our residents and visitors. Polk County Fire Rescue has held off as long as possible before issuing this burn ban and do not want to take the chance of anyone possibly losing their property or investments due to a brush fire.”
The burn ban includes, but is not limited to:
3. Unpermitted controlled burns
4. Burning of yard and household trash
5. Burning of construction debris
6. Burning of organic debris
7. Igniting of fireworks
8. Noncommercial burning of material other than for religious or ceremonial purposes that is not contained in a barbecue grill or barbecue pit, which the total fuel area does not exceed 3 feet in diameter and 2 feet in height.
Polk County is currently averaging over 500 on the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI). The KBDI index is used as an indicator to determine the likelihood and severity of brush fires. The scale begins at zero, which is no danger and rises to 800, which is extreme danger. As a rule of thumb, fire officials become concerned any time the scale goes above 500 for 50 percent of the county.
While high KBDI values are an indication that conditions are favorable for the occurrence and spread of wildfires, drought is not by itself a prerequisite for such fires. Other weather factors, such as wind, temperature, relative humidity and atmospheric stability, play a major role in determining the actual fire danger.
The burn ban applies to all unincorporated Polk and the following municipalities: Auburndale, Bartow, Davenport, Dundee, Eagle Lake, Fort Meade, Haines City, Hillcrest Heights, Lake Alfred, Lake Hamilton, Lakeland, Mulberry, Polk City and Winter Haven.
Any person who refuses to comply or violates this burn ban shall be in violation of County Ordinance 08-015, and shall be punished according to law. Upon such conviction for such offence, the person shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $500 or by imprisonment by a term not to exceed 60 days in the county jail or both.