BRYCEVILLE, Fla. – A 55-year-old man accused of sparking a 700-acre wildfire by burning books at his Nassau County home in March has been billed $59,403.28 for the costs of fighting the fire.
Earlier this year, the Florida Department of Agricultural Services investigators charged Brian Sparks with reckless land burning and failure to obtain a burn permit. Both are misdemeanors.
On Aug. 1, the state sent Sparks a bill and cited the statue that makes him responsible for paying the cost of suppressing the fire that he is accused of starting.
"You can contact the District Manager ... to make payment arrangement. Failure to pay or make arrangement for payment within thirty (30) days may result in the additional cost of an administrative fine," John Fish, chief of the Forest Protection Bureau, wrote to Sparks.
The fire in Bryceville blew out of control and consumed 700 acres of Nassau County woods, destroyed two homes and damaged more than a dozen other structures.
The Florida Forest Service said Sparks was burning boxes of books when the fire got away from him. He had already been cited in the case.
According to the investigative report, Sparks admitted to burning items from a garage on his property.
"Sparks stated that the fire escaped his control and he attempted to put the fire out but was unsuccessful," the report said.
Annaleasa Winter, of the Florida Forest Service, told News4Jax that issuing a bill for reasonable costs and expenses is not uncommon. From Aug. 1, 2016, to July 31, the Forest Service issued 283 fire suppression bills. The most recent eight cases in Nassau, Duval and Clay counties totaled $3,300.