Florida Forest Service suspends burn authorizations in three-county Blackwater area

Posted on October 1, 2019 by Staff reports

In light of extremely dry and dangerous conditions, officials with the Florida Forest Service’s Blackwater Forestry Center will not be issuing authorizations for broadcast or pile burns effective Wednesday until further notice. Burn authorizations will not be issued until conditions improve and the area receives significant rainfall. There are no burn bans in effect.

Authorizations from the Florida Forest Service are required for prescribed burning – acreage burns – and piles greater than 8 feet in diameter. Authorizations are not required for residential yard debris burning in piles less than 8 feet in diameter but Forest Service officials are strongly encouraging residents to refrain from any outdoor burning until the area receives rain.

“It is extremely dry and we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of fires here recently,” said David Smith, Operations Administrator for Blackwater. “The smart thing to do – the safe thing – is to just hold off on burning, right now.”

Firefighters from Blackwater – covering Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counites have responded to wildfire incidents within the past seven days and there is little relief in the near-term forecast.

The Keetch-Byrum Drought Index for the district is 617 on a scale of 800 with Escambia County registering 610, Santa Rosa County 605 and Okaloosa County 635. These measurements put the area within the “severe drought” range, normal for this time of year should be between 241-420.

The KBDI is a continuous reference scale for estimating the dryness of the soil. The index increases for each day without rain (the amount of increase depends on the daily high temperature) and decreases when it rains. The scale ranges from 0 (no moisture deficit) to 800 (high moisture deficit). The range of the index is determined by assuming that there is 8 inches of moisture in a saturated soil.

The Florida Forest Service, a division of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, manages more than 1 million acres of state forests and provides forest management assistance on more than 17 million acres of private and community forests. The Florida Forest Service is also responsible for protecting homes, forestland and natural resources from the devastating effects wildfire on more than 26 million acres. Learn more at FDACS.gov/FLForestService.