PASCO COUNTY (FOX 13) - Pasco County issued a burn ban Wednesday due to ongoing drought and brush fires in the area as several fires continued burning across the county.
After a week of wildfires and dry conditions, Pasco County firefighters said they had a handle on four wildfires that popped up Tuesday and Wednesday.
Roughly 20 acres burned near the Old Dixie Highway area of Hudson and the flames crept uncomfortably close to homes, torching an 18-wheel trailer, boat and shed.
"You could see the sparks and embers and everything starting to fly this way," said Tom Lennon, who lives along New York Avenue. "From my driveway, you could see the flames and everything jumping so you knew it was getting real close."
Lennon said that's all he needed to see to take his own precautions.
"I grabbed the ladder and I started hosing down the roof and all the plants around the house, trying to do whatever I could," he said.
Firefighters did not have to evacuate that area of Hudson, but emergency management officials were preparing a shelter just in case.
Hours earlier, crews battled a brush fire that burned 35 acres along Silver Palm Boulevard, which is near the Suncoast Expressway. Another brush fire burned part of a campground and a fourth forced the evacuation of 75 visitors in Starkey Park.
The Florida Forest Service is now getting worried this fire season is starting to resemble the one in 1998, which was one of the worst for wildfires.
"This activity that we're seeing now is worse than '98. '98 kicked off in May. We're seeing '98 fire behavior in April. To me that's a scary thought," said Keith Mousel, a spokesperson for the Florida Forest Service.
Crews in Pasco County planned to be out overnight to keep an eye on the fires. The burn ban - which covers all open burning, campfires/bonfires, burning yard waste or garbage, and fireworks - will remain in effect until further notice for Pasco, Hardee and Citrus counties.
LINK: Read the burn ban
"Be aware that simple actions such as tossing a cigarette into the grass or idling a vehicle over grass can ignite a brush fire on the side of the road," said Pasco County's fire rescue chief. "The county is so dry that these brush fires can spread quickly, threatening homes and businesses."
Residents who refuse to comply with or violate the burn ban face fines up to $500 or imprisonment of up to 60 days.