An existing Duval County burn ban has been expanded to include no bonfires or campfires until June 1, or until conditions improve, said Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry Thursday.
He said Jacksonville is ready to help other counties affected by the fire, and Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department is planning which trucks and people could help if needed.
Curry and Fire Chief Kurtis Wilson announced the ban, adding grilling is still permitted with a gas or charcoal grill meant for cooking.
Wilson said all eyes are on the West Mims Fire in Georgia, and Jacksonville residents should be taking extreme precautions.
“We continue to have fires daily here in Jacksonville,” Wilson said. “One acre, two acres, brush fires, woods fires.
He said the fires are being started by campfires, burning leaves or discarded cigarettes.
“This is an effort to try to reduce that,” Wilson said. “We have a lot of beautiful greenery in this city and we want to make sure that doesn’t go up in flames.”
Violators could be fined, or on the hook for paying for response efforts, including staffing and equipment used if the fire were to spread.
“The conditions here are ripe for a fire starting here should people not adhere to the burn ban,” said Curry.
Smoke conditions in Jacksonville are moderate, meaning people with respiratory illnesses should stay indoors.
The Duval Health Department is advising against outdoor activities affected by heavy smoke. The Duval County School District canceled all outdoor school activities Thursday, including athletic events and practices.
The Florida Highway Patrol is monitoring roads in Baker, Duval and Columbia Counties due to haze and smoke. Motorists are reminded to use caution, especially at night.
The fire was sparked by lightning in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge a little over a month ago.
Reporter Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at@lindskilbride.