LAKE COUNTY, Fla. – All outdoor burning has been banned indefinitely in Lake County to diminish the risk of brush fires. Officials are taking precautions in Marion County, as well.
Lake County announced the burn ban Monday afternoon, saying that anyone found burning yard waste, creating recreational fires or doing any other burning that has not been specifically permitted by the Florida Division of Forestry will be fined a minimum of $150.
If a fire sparks from unauthorized burning, the person responsible could also be forced to pay the costs associated with extinguishing that fire, which can cost thousands of dollars.
A 400-acre brush fire broke out near State Road 44 and Royal Trails Road in Lake County Saturday afternoon. Florida Forest Service officials said that fire was caused by a spot over from a different brush fire earlier this month.
The smoke was so thick in the air Monday that officials closed State Road 44, which meant county school buses could not operate. The road was reopened, but could close again Monday night through Tuesday morning, according to a news release.
If that's the case, school buses will not operate Tuesday and absences at Seminole Springs Elementary School, Umatilla Elementary, Umatilla Middle School, Umatilla High School, Eustis Middle School and Eustis High School will be excused.
The burn ban in Lake County is in effect until further notice, and with warm, dry conditions continuing it's unclear when it will be lifted. Burn bans have also been issued Seminole, Orange, Brevard and Osceola counties.
"You really shouldn't be burning anything, anywhere in Central Florida," News 6 chief meteorologist Tom Sorrells said.
Outdoor grilling is permitted under the burn ban, but cooks should keep an eye out for stray sparks or embers and make sure they're extinguished immediately.
Officials recommend clearing underbrush, dry plants and vegetation that could provide fuel for a fire.
"Residents are urged to comply fully with the burn ban until weather conditions improve and the ban can be safely lifted. Residents are also asked to immediately report any signs of smoke or fire by calling 911," county officials said.
Marion County is under a voluntary burn ban, officials said Monday night, adding that it’s too dangerous to burn in the current conditions.
Until further notice, firefighters are asking citizens to voluntarily delay any outside burning until the county receives significant rainfall over an extended period of time.
Scattered showers will not decrease the wildfire threat, the country said in a news release.
Meanwhile, Marion County Fire Rescue is "dual-dispatching" units, meaning dispatchers will send double the firefighting resources to wildfires. The idea is to commit a large number of resources to wildfires in order to keep them small, officials said.