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Residents of St. Johns County community concerned about ash, smoke from controlled burns

I-TEAM: As part of land-clearing project in a nearby new development, crews are burning trees they knock down

As snow blankets 18 states in one of the biggest winter storms in years, residents living in one St. Johns County community say another kind of white powder is falling from the sky: ash.

ST. JOHNS, Fla. – As snow blankets 18 states in one of the biggest winter storms in years, residents living in one St. Johns County community say another kind of white powder is falling from the sky: ash.

Locals living in the RiverTown community say embers from nearby controlled burns are polluting their neighborhood and smoke is forcing them to keep their windows closed.

″I didn’t get through my morning run yesterday. I just came back home because it was really awful to breathe that most of the day, and we just kept the kids in,” said RiverTown resident Lindsey Sima.

Residents say the ash is blanketing their cars, homes, polluting their pools and disrupting their quality of life.

“It got on our vehicles, and we took it to the car to the car wash last night,” Sima said.

It’s from this massive land clearing project just a few blocks away in a new development called the Shores at RiverTown. Land clearing crews are the burning trees they knock down and the brush to make way for new houses and townhomes.

Locals are taking issue with the fiery residue. On RiverTown’s Facebook page, one homeowner wrote: “You can’t even go outside, it’s so smoky and it smells. They need to start hauling the construction burning wood away not leaving it to smolder for days. This is ridiculous, this is a health breathing concern (and) not cosmetic.”

On Monday at the Shores subdivision, we didn’t see ash coming from the sky, but we did see fire from a controlled burn still smoldering. News4JAX checked with St. Johns County Fire Rescue and was told land-clearing fires are permitted through Florida’s division of forestry, which has also received complaints about embers falling from the sky.

News4JAX reached out to a builder, Toll Brothers, which provided the following statement:

“We work closely with the County and Forest Service to ensure clearing procedures are followed in accordance with all local and state regulations. We are sensitive to the concerns of neighboring communities, especially given the wide array of development activity taking place in the area, and we will continue to do everything we can to mitigate any impact.”

It’s also worth noting that fire officials say they have received complaints from other developers in St. Johns County, which continues to be one of the fastest-growing counties in the state of Florida.


About the Author:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.