Duval County's burn ban expanded to include bonfires, camp fires

Duval schools cancel outdoor activities today due to smoke

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As smoke filtering down from the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge continues to cause health concerns throughout Northeast Florida, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry announced Thursday that Duval County's permanent burn ban has been temporarily expanded to include bonfires and campfires.

Any open fires outdoors or in fire pits have been added to the ban, which already includes a permanent ban on burning yard debris and trash. Outdoor fires are prohibited through June 1 or until conditions improve, Curry said.

Grilling food outdoors and use of fireworks are still permitted.

Anyone seen violating the burn ban is asked to call 911 or 904-630-CITY.

Every other counties in northeast Florida plus Charlton and Camden in southeast Georgia are under temporary burn bans that must be reviewed every seven days.

Earlier Thursday, the Duval County schools announced that all outdoor activities were being canceled because of smoke moving over the area from the giant fire burning 40 miles away near the Florida-Georgia border.

"To protect the health of our students, teachers and coaches, DCPS is canceling all outdoor activities," Superintendent Nikolai Vitti put on his Twitter page Thursday morning.

Parents are being notified by robocall.

"Duval County Public Schools will continue to monitor the effects of smoke and air quality and maintain daily communications with the Jacksonville Emergency Operations Center," Duval County Public Schools spokeswoman Laureen Ricks wrote in a release. "We appreciate the cooperation of students, staff, and our families, and support the outstanding containment efforts underway by area firefighters and forestry professionals."

The Clay County Sports Complex alerted parents via text message that all afternoon and evening practices and training were cancelled due to the smoky conditions caused by the wildfire. 

The National Weather Service has issued a dense smoke advisory through 10 a.m. Wednesday in southern Charlton and western Nassau counties, with visibility less than one-quarter mile, especially along Highway 121. Low visibilities will make roadways hazardous for travel. If driving, slow down, use your headlights and leave plenty of distance ahead of you in case a sudden stop is needed.

Dense smoke may cause health problems, especially for children, pregnant women and the elderly, so they need to restrict their outdoor activities. Smoke can also worsen asthma and other chronic lung or heart conditions.

Here are some suggestions on health precautions to take for people in areas affected by smoke:

  • Avoid prolonged outdoor activities in areas heavily affected by smoke. This is especially important for children and persons with pre-existing medical conditions.
  • Stay indoors and run your air conditioner. Keep the fresh air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent bringing additional smoke inside. For best results, run the air conditioning with recirculated air.
  • Help keep particle levels lower inside. When smoke levels are high, try to avoid using anything that burns, such as wood fireplaces, gas logs, gas stoves and candles. Do not vacuum, which stirs up particles already inside your home. Do not smoke.
  • Follow your doctor’s advice about taking medicines and following your asthma management plan if you have asthma or other lung diseases. Call your doctor if your symptoms worsen.
  • Pay attention to air quality reports, news coverage or health warnings related to smoke.

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