Recent drought conditions prompt decision
At their meeting June 28, the Walton County Board of County Commissioners instituted a mandatory burn ban throughout Walton County due to current drought conditions. As long as the ban remains in effect, fireworks that would normally be classified as legal – such as sparklers – are prohibited.
Under Florida law, setting off illegal fireworks is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Please encourage visitors, colleagues and friends to leave the shows to the pros and attend one of the free, professional fireworks displays scheduled throughout South Walton.
With extreme drought conditions and a lack of appreciable rain in the area, the Walton Fire Council (comprised of members from The South Walton Fire District, Walton County Emergency Management, Walton County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Division of Forestry) issued in attempt to protect Walton County and it residents and visitors from careless open burning.
The mandatory burn ban means that Walton County residents as well as visitors are being instructed to NOT burn any type of yard debris until drought-like conditions subside and the ban is lifted. The mandatory ban would also include any other type of ‘open fires’ like campfires and bonfires as well as unauthorized fireworks displays. All beach bonfire permits have been suspended until further notice.
Cooking fires contained within grills and other such devices as well as authorized ‘professional’ fireworks displays are not included in this mandatory burn ban.
The average drought index using the Keetch-Byram Drought Index, or KBDI, for Walton County is 680. However, there are many parts of Walton County, in particular the South Walton area that are in the 750 range of the KBDI. Any number above 500 is considered in the wildfire danger zone. Even the scattered showers that have recently occurred will not provide the necessary moisture to reduce the current wildfire threats, so the mandatory burn ban will remain in effect until Walton County receives significant rainfall over an extended period of time. Furthermore, lighting associated with thunderstorms can spark wildfires that can smolder for several days until the vegetative ‘fuel’ that it’s burning in dries out and can then spread rapidly.
The South Walton Fire District is urging citizens to follow these safety tips:
• Take yard debris to the Walton County landfill or recycling centers, a safer alternative to backyard burning. Call Walton County Solid Waste at (850) 892-8180 for more information.
• Immediately report any unattended fires to local authorities.
• Use vehicle ashtrays instead of throwing cigarette butts out the window.
• Use caution when mowing or working with other equipment that could spark.