Lee County among few burn ban holdouts

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FORT MYERS, Fla. Lee County remains an exception to the rule.

Municipalities across Southwest Florida have issued burn bans in an effort to prevent fires that have ravaged the area, but Lee County isn’t one of them.

A burn ban would prohibit outdoor burning, including campfires, bonfires and trash burning.

Enacting a burn ban requires legislative action, according to Samantha Quinn, a public information officer for the Florida Forest Service. Lee County commissioners would need to meet, discuss and vote on the matter.

The county would rely on several factors, including Keetch-Byram Drought Index, which must be between 701 and 800 during April, May or June for commissioners to act, county spokeswoman Betsy Clayton said.

The KBDI was 571 on Sunday, when Fort Myers received 2.1 inches of rain, breaking an 82-year-old record, Clayton said. The KBDI on Saturday was 676.

Fire districts and cities within the county have the authority to impose burn bans of their own. Fort Myers, Cape Coral and Bonita Springs have all done so, as have the Matlacha-Pine Island Fire Control District and the Bayshore Fire Protection and Rescue District. The Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District is meeting Tuesday night to consider the idea.

Forestry officials support burn bans based on the 49 brush fires that have started in the county since Jan. 1. Five homes have been destroyed and 16 have been damaged. Thirty of the 49 fires are known to have been caused by humans or machinery.

“Any little thing can spark a fire and if there’s something that we can do to potentially reduce the damaging effects of a wildfire, we want to exhaust all of our efforts,” Quinn said. “And this is just one of those pieces to the pie.”

DeSoto County has also yet to enact burn bans, the forest service said. Charlotte County commissioners just approved a burn ban Tuesday morning.

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