Know the law before burning yard waste

Often residents desire to burn yard waste but aren’t sure if it is legal to do so. According to the Florida Forest Service, it is legal to burn yard waste without a permit as long as there are no city or county restrictions in effect at the time and you meet certain restrictions:

• You meet the required setbacks (25’ from your house, 25’ from wild land or combustible structure, 50’ from paved public road and 150’ from other occupied buildings).

• The yard waste you plan to burn was generated on your property and will fit into an 8-foot diameter pile.

• The fire is ignited no earlier than 9 a.m. and extinguished one hour before sunset.
Yard waste is considered things such as tree trimmings, grass clippings, brush, leaves, etc.
It is not legal to burn anything other than yard waste. You may not burn paper, old tires, plastic, treated lumber, paint, rubber, aerosol containers, etc.

The Florida Forest Service offers some tips for safe outdoor burning:

• The safest way to keep fire from spreading is to clear an area around your fire pit down to bare soil so the fire has nothing to feed on if it should escape your burn barrel or pile, and it won’t travel beyond that cleared area.

• Rather than burning in an open pile, use a non-combustible container and cover it with wire mesh to keep sparks from flying out and starting more fires.

• Never burn on windy days.

• Never leave a fire unattended.

• Always keep a water hose and/or a bucket of water nearby in case the fire gets out of the controlled area.

• Keeps smoke away from nearby roads so it does not hinder drivers’ visibility.

• Always remember to make sure your fire is completely out before you leave. Embers can smolder for days and then reignite.

• If you have any questions, call your local Forest Service office. Okeechobee Forestry District 863-467-3221 serving:

• Glades

• Highlands

• Indian River

• Martin

• Okeechobee

• St. Lucie

Some burns do require authorization. Agricultural, land clearing, acreage, and large pile burning all require a permit before burning. These can be obtained from the Florida Forest Service.

The Forest Service says one of the leading causes of wildfires is escaped fires from yard debris burns. If your fire escapes, you could be held liable for the damages to your neighbor’s property and for the costs of suppressing the fire, but all it takes is a little precaution to prevent a lifetime of regret.

Remember to check with your local city or county to be sure there are no local restrictions in effect at the time you plan to burn.

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

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