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Central Florida burn bans still in place, despite a little rain

Several Central Florida counties have burn bans in effect due to drought conditions following significant shortfalls in rain so far this year.
Florida Forest Service
Several Central Florida counties have burn bans in effect due to drought conditions following significant shortfalls in rain so far this year.

Lake is the most recent Central Florida County to impose an outdoor burn ban because drought conditions have increased the risk of wildfires.

In the first three months of the year, the National Weather Service reports that Leesburg got only 22% of normal rainfall. And recent cooler weather and a little rain haven’t changed the situation that much.

Lake County Public Safety Director David Kilbury said the ban is a science-based decision using theKeetch Byram Drought Index. The index ranges from 0 to 800. It considers the dryness of the soil and the forest's top layer of decayed organic material.

That layer, called the duff, is normally dark and damp. When the index is over 500, it’s dry and dusty.

Normally a bonfire's stray ember is no threat, Kilbury said. "But when we're in this tinder dry condition, an ember through an unintended campfire or something that gets out of control can rapidly, exponentially cause extreme fire growth."

Only when the drought index drops below 500 will Lake County lift the burn ban.

Similar bans are also in place for Seminole, Orange, Osceola, Polk and Brevard counties.

Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.
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