TALLAHASSEE – Drought conditions across Florida prompted thestate’s agriculture commissioner to ban most outdoor fires Tuesday in an effortto avert wildfires that are increasingly threatening the state.
Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Bob Crawford issued anemergency declaration banning most outdoor burning until drought conditionssubside in the nation’s fourth most populous state.
So far this year, 2,800 wildfires have claimed nearly 82,000 acres in Floridaas rising temperatures and continued lack of rain are making portions of thestate tinder dry.
“The ban pretty much prohibits any kind of outdoor burning except foroutdoor cooking in barbecues at your home or in public facilities like stateparks, beaches and state forests,” said Crawford spokesman Terry McElroy.
Tuesday’s ban was the first statewide Florida fire ban since 1998, when morethan 500,000 acres went up in flames.
Compounded by searing temperatures, the 1998 wildfires destroyed or damaged300 homes and forced the evacuation of 50,000 residents, according toagriculture department statistics.