PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Bay County officials have ordered a burn ban.
“At the request of Bay County Emergency Services Chief Mark Bowen and the Florida Forest Service, and under the authority of the ongoing Hurricane Michael emergency declaration, a burn ban that prohibits any outdoor activity that could cause fires in Bay County is effective immediately, officials wrote in a news release. “The ban, signed this morning by Bay County Commission Chairman Philip “Griff” Griffitts and set for ratification at the next meeting of the board, prohibits activities such as open burning; the sale or use of fireworks; lawn, debris or trash burning; improper disposal of matches or cigarettes; and any outdoor activity that could cause sparks or flames.”
However, the use of charcoal or gas grills for cooking is permitted under the order.
The order comes after a 575 acre wildfire destroyed more than 30 homes in Walton County and firefighters battled blazes in Washington and Santa Rosa counties. Washington and Holmes Counties have already issued burn bans.
Illegal activities may result in penalties of a fine not to exceed $500 or a jail term of no more than 60 days or both. Each day the violation exists is a separate offense or violation. Further, violators of the burn ban may be subject to civil action for abatement and damages.
“Considering the massive amount of downed trees we still have from Hurricane Michael, dry conditions, low humidity and recent winds, enacting a burn ban is a prudent course of action,” Griffitts said.
The ban runs concurrently with the Hurricane Michael emergency declaration, though it can be modified or rescinded by the board, officials wrote. This order applies throughout Bay County, though municipalities may opt out by resolution or ordinance.