Volusia, Flagler Counties Issue Burn Bans as Wildfire Risk Grows


The governments of both Flagler and Volusia counties have announced their response to the present and rising risk of wildfires: Flagler County has issued a one-week ban on all burning, with Volusia County following suit just afterward. Flagler's ban took effect at 5:00 pm Wednesday and will remain in effect for seven days, while Volusia's ban took effect at 12:01 am on Thursday.

Flagler County detailed how it derives its authority to implement the ban, citing Chapter 12 of the Flagler County Code and Section 252.38(3) of the Florida Statutes, per the statement released Wednesday. County officials may extend the ban by intervals of seven days at a time if they determine it’s necessary to do so. Volusia's ban will be in effect 'until further notice', according to their statement.

As of Thursday, the two counties are joining Brevard, Orange, Osceola, Polk, and Seminole counties in instituting a burn ban. Those in violation may be subjected to penalties. Anyone who sees smoke or fire in their area are urged to immediately call 911 and report the location in which they saw it.

Volusia County Fire Chief Joe King and Flagler County Fire Chief Michael Tucker.
Volusia County Fire Chief Joe King and Flagler County Fire Chief Michael Tucker.

How to Prevent Wildfires

“The conditions are becoming favorable for rapid fire growth so this action will help,” said Flagler County Fire Chief Michael Tucker in the announcement. “In addition to the ban on burning, remember that a good offense is the best defense. Clear the area around your house of anything that will go up in flames easily – including stacks of firewood, portable propane tanks, and dead, dry vegetation.”

Activities prohibited under the burn ban include the usage of fireworks or flares, open burning including fire pits, bonfires and campfires, outdoor cookers or grills (unless attended by an adult at all times), tossing matches or cigarettes from vehicles, and parking vehicles with catalytic converters in areas with high grass.

Flagler County is advising residents to heed the guidance issued by the National Fire Protection Association for personal safety measures: all flammable objects within 30 feet of a structure ought to be removed from their place. For many homeowners, this may mean clearing leaves, pine needles, and other debris from their roofs, eaves, gutters, wooden decks, and patios. All coal from barbecues should be completely extinguished before putting into the trash, the county's announcement says.

Volusia County's statement claimed that Volusia County Fire Rescue has already been dealing with multiple wildfires, and is hoping smart practices by residents can keep that number under control. Like Flagler County they advised a 30-foot perimeter around structures from flammable debris, as well as clearing leaves and other natural waste.

“Additionally, do not store things under decks or porches, and consider using rocks or gravel in those areas instead [of] grass or mulch,” added Chief Tucker. “Wood-driven fires, like brush fires, create embers that can be carried quite far, and tend to find their way to the same nooks and crannies where leaves accumulate.”

Statistics & History

According to the National Park Service, nearly 85% of wildfires in the United States are caused by human activity. The actions most frequently responsible for these fires, the NPS says, are debris-burning, equipment usage and malfunction, negligently discarded cigarettes, and malicious arson. Florida's own tourism website claims the number is closer to 90% in Florida, with lightning strikes accounting for most of the remaining 10%.

“Please take this burn ban seriously,” Tucker said. “It’s been a while since we’ve had one in Flagler County, so please heed our warnings.” Of course, May 2024 marks 26 years since the 1998 Florida wildfires which caused a total evacuation of Flagler County, the worst natural disaster ever to hit the county since its inception. Over 150 homes were burned, and upwards of 130 miles of I-95 were closed spanning from Jacksonville to Titusville. Half a million acres were burnt, and over $300,000,000 of damage was caused just in timber loss, according to the United States Fire Administration.