PASCO COUNTY, Fla. - UPDATE | 4/14/17-- In addition to the burn bans, the Southwest Florida Water Management District has closed all District managed campgrounds throughout the 16 county region during Florida's wildlife emergency event.
The following District managed campgrounds are closed until further notice:
• Cypress Creek Preserve
• Deep Creek Preserve
• Flying Eagle Preserve
• Green Swamp – East Tract
• Green Swamp – Hampton Tract
• Green Swamp – West Tract
• Lake Panasofkee
• Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve
• Potts Preserve
• Starkey Wilderness Preserve – Serenova Tract
• Upper Hillsborough Preserve – Alston Tract
• Upper Hillsborough Preserve – Upper Hillsborough Tract
Additional information about District properties closed due to wildfires can be found on the District’s website at WaterMatters.org.
VIDEO: Salvation Army helps feed hundreds of firefighters
The Salvation Army of Florida has helped feed hundreds of firefighters across Bay area counties since last week. Half a dozen volunteers have been stationed in the Hudson area of Pasco County for four different brush fires. Along with meals, they have a hydration station set up with cooling towels, water, and gatorade.
A fourth brush fire has ignited in Pasco County in the Hudson area. New York Ave. from Old Dixie Highway to US-19 is closed.
The Pasco County Board of County Commissioners has approved a burn ban that takes effect immediately.
Multiple brush fires across Pasco County in the last week have made the burn ban necessary.
Under the Burn Ban, Pasco County residents are prohibited from setting fires or causing fires without first obtaining a permit from the Florida Forest Service for burning in unincorporated areas of the county, including:
Campfires or Bonfires
Burning Yard Waste or Garbage
Fireworks (except sparklers and novelties such as noisemakers)
Officials say that cooking in grills that can contain fire, flame, and heat is acceptable at this time, until further notice.
Silver Palm Blvd. off of State Road 52 into Suncoast Lakes subdivision is now closed to all local traffic. All residents are asked to shelter in place and not drive on the main road. If residents leave, they will not be allowed back in until further notice. As of 2:32 p.m., this fire was 25 percent contained.
The Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park located at 10500 Wilderness Park Road in New Port Richey is being evacuated and closed until further notice. This includes all bike trails, campers, and day users.
The Suncoast Bike Trail from SR 52 to SR 54 and the trails going into Starkey Park are closed until further notice. The area affected is 25 acres and crews have lines around it. The helicopter is helping drop water over the fire.
VIDEO: Lightning strike can cause wildfire up to four days later
At least two fires are believed to have started by lightning strikes in Pasco County.
Fire mitigation specialists with the Florida Fire Service say a lightning strike can spark a fire within one hour or it can smolder below the surface for up to four days before turning into a wildfire. The National Weather Service is updating fire officials every hour on wind conditions, humidity and when smoke is expected to disappear.
"Be aware that simple actions such as tossing a cigarette into the grass or idling a vehicle over grass can ignite a brush fire on the side of the road," said Pasco County Fire Rescue Chief. "The County is so dry that these brush fires can spread quickly, threatening homes and businesses. Residents who refuse to comply with or violate the burn ban face fines up to $500 or imprisonment of up to 60 days."