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Burn ban voluntary in Marion

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Marion County Fire Rescue (MCFR), with the recommendation of the Marion County Multi-Agency Wildland Task Force, decided to implement a voluntary burn ban for Marion County, effective immediately.

Governor Rick Scott has issued Executive Order 17-120, declaring a state of emergency following the recent wildfires and extreme fire danger faced by our state.

Until further notice, firefighters are asking citizens to voluntarily delay any outside burning until Marion County receives significant rainfall over an extended period of time.

Scattered showers will not decrease the wildfire threat. Meanwhile, MCFR is “dual-dispatching” units, meaning dispatchers will send double the amount of firefighting resources to wildfires.

The idea: commit a large amount of resources to wildfires to keep them small. Forestry units also immediately respond in a coordinated, unified effort.

Before issuing permits to commercial land clearers, the Florida Forest Service (FFS) may require two pieces of equipment on site and even an on-site inspection. The FFS will closely monitor wildfire conditions daily and could suspend permitting fires on certain days. Commercial land clearers who need permits should call the FFS at 352- 395-4951 for more information. Citizens living in the city of Ocala and Dunnellon are also not allowed to burn without a permit.

The Marion County Multi-Agency Wildland Task Force formed shortly before the unprecedented 1998 wildfire season. Firefighters and other public safety professionals from local city, county, state and federal agencies meet on a routine basis to discuss wildfire conditions, call load, manpower capabilities, wildfire tactics and public education campaigns. While wildfires have devastated many Florida counties, Marion County has remained relatively wildfire free thanks, in part, to the cooperative efforts of the task force.

Though the task force cannot implement a mandatory burn ban, it can make recommendations to the Marion County Board of County Commissioners, who implemented mandatory burn bans in 2009, 2008 and 2007. Task force members will examine agency resources and current conditions at a future meeting, and will discuss the possibility of whether to recommend a mandatory countywide burn ban to commissioners. Surrounding counties have already implemented mandatory burn bans due to the increase in local fire activity.

Meanwhile, firefighters urge citizens to follow these safety tips.

• Voluntarily delay any outside burning until Marion County receives significant rainfall over an extended period of time.

• Take yard debris to Marion County’s landfill or recycling centers, a safer alternative to backyard burning. Citizens should call (352) 671-8465 for more information.

• Immediately report arson or other suspicious activity to law enforcement.

• Use vehicle ashtrays instead of throwing cigarette butts out the window. Use caution when mowing or working with other equipment that could spark.