Drought brings state of emergency declaration, burn ban to Manatee County

Manatee County Commission on Tuesday declared a State of Local Emergency due to the drought conditions.

The commission adopted a resolution declaring the State of Emergency that will last until 11:59 p.m. May 2, unless extended.

“Safeguarding the lives and property of its citizens is an innate responsibility of the Board of County Commissioners,” agenda materials stated. “Due to the hot, dry, parched, drought and windy conditions and the resultant threat of wildfires within Manatee County, emergency measures to ban or limit certain activities are required.”

As part of the State of Local Emergency, there is a burn ban, but certain activities including the use of outdoor cookers or grills are permitted as long as there is supervision.

“I’m glad that it’s here today,” Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said. “I don’t think that there is anybody that is in Manatee County or surrounding counties that’s not concerned with what’s going on in the state of Florida.”

Commission Chairwoman Betsy Benac said she’s hoping for rains soon.

“We have to be extra cautious,” she said.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District governing board also voted Tuesday morning to declare a phase 1 water shortage for all of the district’s 16 counties, including Manatee and Sarasota. This order only warns residents of possible future water restrictions and requires more enforcement and reporting of water conservation from utilities.

The district was certain that there is enough water supply for the counties to last through the drought, though it advised residents to be mindful of their water usage.

Herald staff writer Hannah Morse contributed to this report.

Claire Aronson: 941-745-7024, @Claire_Aronson

Drought index and wildfire stats for the Myakka River District in January through April

  • 2011 95 fires, 1,196 acres
  • 2012 102 fires, 1,166.3 acres
  • 2013 78 fires, 1,574.1 acres
  • 2014 40 fires, 319.5 acres
  • 2015 33 fires, 730.9 acres
  • 2016 31 fires, 107.6 acres
  • 2017 88 fires, 3,085.1 acres

Source: Manatee County presentation

Permitted activities during State of Local Emergency

  • Use of outdoor cookers or grills as long as they are supervised while in operation
  • Any agricultural, silvicultural or land clearing burn that has been authorized by the Florida Forest Service and it is determined that there will be sufficient fire suppression equipment and personnel on site
  • Properly permitted public firework displays with adequate fire suppression equipment and personnel on site
  • Flares discharged over the Gulf of Mexico

Source: Manatee County resolution

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