Dry conditions, fireworks a dangerous combination during Memorial Day weekend, JFRD warns

2 firefighters released from hospital after suffering heat exhaustion

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After the first brush fire of the season on Thursday, first responders are reminding residents of Duval County’s burn ban going into Memorial Day weekend.

“We don’t want to be Debbie Downer, we don’t want to be a party pooper, but you’ve got to take into consideration where you’re shooting the stuff and what’s at stake,” said Eric Proswimmer with Jacksonville Fire Rescue. “Imagine if it was your house, would you want your house in the situation?”

After a brush fire started Thursday afternoon off San Pablo Road, forestry crews were still working the smoldering scene on Friday.

Fire Rescue was there through the night to make sure there were no flare-ups and no homes were in danger. The brush fire spanned across five acres reaching within 100 feet of a neighborhood.

JFRD shared video of the intensity of the flames where you can hear crackling.

“These fires are really taxing on you physically you’re fighting through undeveloped land you’re tripping through roots you’re seeing all sorts of things and getting torn up by the palmettos,” Proswimmer said.

JFRD worked with the Florida Forest Service who was able to quickly cut the fire line using its tractor, while JFRD crews were trying to extend hoses to reach them.

“Palmettos and a lot of different plants tend to have a serious root base under the ground,” Proswimmer said. “It will smolder for days so it’s an issue and it’s really hard to get water to penetrate into the ground and to extinguish that ground completely.”

As of Friday, the fire was 100% contained, JFRD said, and the cause of fire is under investigation.

Angelica Schonning is just one neighbor who lives in the Crosswater at San Pablo neighborhood who had to be evacuated yesterday and was frightened by the fire coming close to her home.

“[The smoke] was thick and it was hard to breathe. Because of all the ash we ended up using our COVID-19 masks," Schonning said.

With barely any rain all month, fires start more easily. Going into Memorial Day weekend, firefighters have a message:

“It can happen anywhere. It can happen where all of a sudden you got somebody’s grass in their yard that hasn’t been watered and it runs that grass and it hits the house from a firework from a lawnmower from a car driving where it shouldn’t be driving shooting sparks, that’s how critical it is," Proswimmer said.

Jacksonville’s Memorial Day weekend forecast looks hot and mostly dry, according to News4Jax meteorologist Rebecca Barry.

Two firefighters were taken to the hospital Thursday for heat exhaustion. They are now home resting.

The Florida Forest Service has a national initiative called Firewise USA which promotes community action and homeowner responsibility. Forestry said that’s the only effective way to solve this growing problem.

On Forestry’s website, it talks about the wildland/urban interface where the edge of a community transitions to forest land or where homes are next to a wooded park or preserve, just as in the case of Thursday’s fire.

Forestry said residents usually don’t realize they may live too “close to nature” and they may, in fact, be living on the edge of a wildfire disaster. That’s why the Firewise USA initiative was developed to learn to live safely in Florida’s fire-prone environment.

San Pablo Road reopened by early Thursday evening, though firefighters said smoke could linger and be a problem into Friday or even into the weekend, not only for the immediate area, but possibly even J. Turner Butler and Beach boulevards.

Duval County has a burn ban year-round, and firefighters asked residents to not do any outdoor burning, especially with the upcoming Memorial Day weekend when people are known to shoot off fireworks.

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