SARASOTA, Fla. — As Floridians wait for the wet season to begin, the dry conditions in and around the Tampa Bay area prompted at least one county to issue a recreational burn ban ahead of the Memorial Holiday weekend.
Sarasota County Fire Chief Michael Regnier issued the countywide ban effective immediately due to “the dry weather conditions and an increased chance of wildfires.” The recreational burn ban in Sarasota County will remain in place until weather conditions change and the chances of wildfires starts to decrease. The ban includes any non-commercial burning of approved fuel for pleasure, religious, or ceremonial reasons including campfires, bonfires, and any open fires not permitted by the Florida Forest Service.
"The only exception to the ban is cooking fires used on outdoor grills. Residents are reminded to never leave a grill unattended while cooking and ensure the grill is in a safe location. Before disposing of coals, it is important to ensure that the coals are completely cooled," Regnier said.
Additionally, Polk County said the extended dry weather conditions prompted Polk Fire Rescue to issue a burn ban of its own. has issued a burn ban. Polk County said the increased risk is a "threat to the public health, safety, and general welfare" of residents.
“We have held off as long as we possibly can on issuing this burn ban,” said Polk Fire Chief Rob Weech. “But conditions are favorable for the rapid development and spread of brush fires and we need to take every step necessary to ensure the safety of everyone."
As of Thursday, parts of the Tampa Bay area south to Monroe County are listed as “abnormally dry” or in “moderate drought,” according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The primary area dealing with at least moderate drought conditions is in southwest Florida.