Burn ban lifted for Alachua County

A 60 percent chance of rain today and a "change in conditions" led the county to lift the ban.

Published: Tuesday, January 4, 2011 at 9:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 4, 2011 at 11:41 p.m.

Hours before Alachua County lifted its burn ban on Tuesday afternoon, sheriff's Deputy Edward Clark did exactly what a suspect asked him to do early Tuesday. He took the man to jail.


Burn bans in North Florida

Alachua County: Burn ban has been lifted as of Tuesday.

Bradford County: Burn ban will remain in effect until further notice.

Gilchrist County: Burn ban extended until Jan. 20.

Marion County: Voluntary burn ban in effect.

Putnam County: Current burn ban expires on Friday and is expected to be extended by County Commission.

Union County: Current burn ban is expected to be renewed when it expires next week.

Clark and firefighters from Alachua County Fire Rescue were dispatched to 2117 SE 45th Terrace to check out a report that someone had started a fire and was burning trash behind a home. Open outdoor fires have been prohibited since Alachua County enacted a burn ban more than a week ago due to drought conditions across the county, although that ban was lifted "due to recent rainfall and a change in conditions," the county said in a news release Tuesday afternoon.

Alachua County Public Safety Director Ed Bailey said the decision was made because the frequency of wildfires has stabilized and because rainfall is forecast for this week.

"We looked at the frequency of occurrence with the wildfires. And they are predicting a 40 to 60 percent chance of rain for today and into Thursday," Bailey said. "Those are good indicators. But we will evaluate it next week."

While the ban was still in effect early Tuesday, however, county officials said crews had been dispatched to the residence of Nathaniel Lee, 39, five times in the past week to respond to reports of fires being intentionally set there.

On Tuesday morning, Clark said firefighters found a fire about the size of two vehicles.

Lee refused to extinguish the fire, Clark said.

Instead, Lee told Clark that he might as well be taken to jail. Clark obliged and Lee was booked into the Alachua County jail on charges of resisting arrest and violating the county's burn ban.

Lee is believed to be the first person arrested for violating a burn ban in Florida this wildfire season.

Contrary to the decision in Alachua County, commissioners in five other North Florida counties have either extended their initial bans on outdoor burning by one to two weeks or have decided to keep a ban in place until further notice.

Florida Division of Forestry and National Weather Service forecasters said the dry, fire-favorable weather is expected to continue indefinitely because there is no significant rainfall in sight.

The forecast for today and Thursday includes a 60 percent chance of rain today, falling to a 20 percent chance of rain on Thursday.

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