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Dry vegetation presents fire hazard

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By Jeff M. Hardison

The first cold snap of the season left its mark in Levy County with dry ground cover and leaves.

The threat of wildfires exists and the continued drought increases problems. Here are some reminders from the Florida Division of Forestry and from the Chiefland Fire Rescue Department concerning outside burning:

* Agriculture, silviculture, land clearing, pile and acreage burning all require authorization from the Division of Forestry.

* Before starting any outside burning, contact the local fire department for any burn bans that may be in effect.

* No fire should be left unattended.

* No fire should exceed the size of being easily extinguished with a garden hose.

* Setbacks must be created before burning yard debris. Piles must be no larger than 8 feet in diameter, or they must be contained in a burn barrel or in a non-combustible container with a screen top to reduce flying embers.

* Clean a spot down to the bare soil around the fire area to help prevent the spread of fire. Fires must be 25 feet away from a forest and your residence, 150 feet from other occupied buildings and 50 feet from paved public roads.

* Yard debris fires may be started at 9 a.m. and must be out one hour before sunset.

* Smoke from the fire may not become a hazard or a nuisance.

* It is illegal to burn household garbage, including paper products.

* It is illegal to burn treated lumber, plastics, rubber materials, tires, pesticides, paint and aerosol containers.

OTHER FIRE HAZARDS

Beyond the rules for outside burning, there are other hazards to remember.

Improper burning in a fireplace may lead to a fire starting inside or outside of a home. The accumulation of soot and creosote can cause a chimney fire. Do not attempt to burn paper, boxes, or limbs from a live Christmas tree in a fireplace. These items produce floating embers, which can ignite a chimney fire or start a wildfire outdoors.

It is important to remember children at home during the holidays from school. Keep matches, lighters and candles out of the reach of small children.

Do not allow them to play in the kitchen when the stove or oven are in use. Create an escape plan and practice it with your children.

Make sure smoke detectors are working. Test them while children are awake and asleep to see if the children understand what the sound means.

Designate a safe place outside the home for the family to meet if a fire alarm causes people to leave the home. The specific meeting place for all people prevents firefighters from looking for a person who is already out of the burning building.

Remind children - "Never hide. Go outside."

For more information about fire safety, please call Chiefland Fire Rescue at (352) 493-6771.