Burn ban implemented in Sarasota County because of drought conditions

All outdoor burning prohibited without a permit, with exceptions for use of barbecue grills and pits within specific dimensions

Image courtesy Sarasota County

Sarasota County staff has implemented a burn ban because of local drought conditions and an increased chance of fire hazards, county staff announced on May 5.

“All outdoor burning is prohibited unless a permit has been issued and is applicable for the unincorporated areas of Sarasota County and the City of Sarasota,” a news release points out.

Exceptions to this include cooking on barbecue grills or pits that do not exceed 3 feet in diameter and 2 feet in height, “or any other valid state or county authorized burn,” the release says.

“Under Sarasota County’s burn ban ordinance (Sarasota County Code Section 58-2), burn bans automatically go into effect countywide and prohibit almost all open burning when the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) meets or exceeds 500,” a news release explains.

The KBDI “is a continuous reference scale for estimating the dryness of the soil and duff layers,” the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services explains on its website. “The index increases for each day without rain (the amount of increase depends on the daily high temperature) and decreases when it rains,” the website adds. “The scale ranges from 0 (no moisture deficit) to 800,” the website notes.

This is the Sarasota County KBDI index, as shown on the Florida Forest Service website on May 8.

The burn ban automatically will be lifted “after the drought index falls below 500 for seven consecutive days,” the county news release points out. “This announcement will be made on scgov.net, on Sarasota County social media pages and through local news media,” the release adds.

Recent hydrologic reports produced by the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) do note that rainfall in the District’s Southern region, which includes Sarasota County, was within the “normal” range from December 2023 through March, the last month for which the data was available this week.

  • In December 2023, the Southern region received an average of 2.12 inches of rainfall, which was equivalent to the 71st percentile of historical December readings, SWFWD reported.
  • In January, the Southern region received an average of 3.88 inches of rainfall, which was equivalent to the 73rd percentile of historical January readings.
  • In February, the region received an average of 2.46 inches of rainfall, which was equivalent to the 56th percentile of historical February readings.
  • In March, the region received an average of 1.62 inches of rainfall, equivalent to the 40th percentile of historical March readings.

Nonetheless, maps showing the counties in the specific SWFWMD regions make clear that much of Sarasota County has been classified as “very dry” for more than a year.

Images courtesy SWFWMD
This Florida map shows the location of Sarasota County. Image from Wikipedia
Image courtesy SWFWMD

The leaders of the Sarasota County Fire Department are asking all residents “to stay vigilant during these dry conditions and to take the following actions to protect their families and homes from fire danger,” the release says:

  • “Create three zones of defensible space around your home or business.
  • “Clear trash and dead vegetation from the yard.
  • “Remove leaves and debris from roof, gutters and under decks.
  • “Have a plan and an emergency preparedness kit packed in case you need to evacuate quickly, especially if your home is near wildlands.
  • “Monitor local media for updates on road closures, smoke conditions and other hazards.
  • “Use extreme caution when grilling, camping and discarding cigarettes.
  • “Don’t use anything (for example, lawn mowers) that may create sparks outside on dry, windy days.
  • “If you see something, say something! Call 911 if you see fire in your area.

“Should a wildfire occur,” the release points out, “nearby residents are urged to follow the directions from authorities, which may include evacuations in localized areas.”

For more information, members of the public may call 311 in Sarasota County or visit scgov.net/fire.

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