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Polk issues a burn ban as dry conditions and wildfire risks persist

Polk County issued a burn ban on March 31, 2023, following a wildfire that encompassed 1,000 acres and destroyed 200 outbuildings.
Florida Fire Service Lakeland
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Polk County issued a burn ban on March 31, 2023, following a wildfire that encompassed 1,000 acres and destroyed 200 outbuildings.

A long drought in Polk County, which shows no sign of ending, has led county officials to enact a burn ban ordinance.

The ban was issued Friday following a wildfire earlier this week that encompassed 1,000 acres and destroyed 200 outbuildings.

“Polk County Fire Rescue has held off as long as we possibly can on issuing this burn ban,” said Hezedean A. Smith, Polk County fire rescue chief. “The current dry conditions are favorable for the rapid development and spread of brush fires throughout the County.

"Ensuring the safety of every resident and visitor throughout Polk County and minimizing the likeliness for loss of property county wide are top priorities for Polk County Fire Rescue.”

More than half of the county is rated over 500 on the KBDI index, a measure that the Florida Forest Service uses to assess the likelihood and severity of brush fires. The scale ranges from zero to 800.

The burn ban was issued days after a similar warning was issued for Orange, Osceola, Seminole, and Brevard counties.

Activities prohibited by the ban include any type of recreational fire, burning of debris, lighting fireworks, or unpermitted controlled burns. Violators could receive a fine or jail time.

WMFE reporter Danielle Prieur contributed to this report.

Joanna Keen is the WUSF Stephen Noble Digital News intern for spring of 2023.