Pasco officials: Don't ignore burn ban

- Pasco County Emergency Movement put out a warning to residents Monday: Defy the county's burn ban and face a potential fine and jail time.

Kevin Guthrie, Pasco's emergency services director, said the drought has made conditions so dangerous and a lot of people don't seem to understand or care.

"We have had 410 -- that's four-one-zero -- 410 illegal burns or outside burns in Pasco County since that burn ban has gone into effect," he said during an afternoon news conference.

Several counties have been under a burn ban for several weeks, including Pasco, whose regulation went into effect April 12.

"I think it's very frustrating," added Pasco Fire Rescue Chief Shawn Whited. "It's frustrating when you have to actually give those citations and those warnings."

Anyone caught ignoring the burn ban could face up to a $500 fine and 60 days in jail.

So far none of the illegal burns have sparked a major fire and officials want to make sure that continues, especially with dry conditions expected for the next several days or weeks.

The Withlacoochee district of the Florida Forest Service, which includes much of the northern Tampa Bay area, is also preparing for a busy start to the rainy season because it's almost a guarantee that lightning will spark several brush fires.

"I will warn you: it'll get worse before it gets better. When the first thunderstorms start coming we'll be right back at it, hot and heavy again," said Brian Prill with the Forest Service.

Pasco deputies also plan to crack down on people who do something careless like toss a cigarette out a car window; cigarettes are the known causes of a few brush fires this season.

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