(1) DEFINITIONS.—As used in this section, the term:
(a) “Prescribed burning” means the controlled application of fire in accordance with a written prescription for vegetative fuels under specified environmental conditions while following appropriate precautionary measures that ensure that the fire is confined to a predetermined area to accomplish the planned fire or land-management objectives.
(b) “Certified prescribed burn manager” means an individual who successfully completes the certification program of the division and possesses a valid certification number.
(c) “Prescription” means a written plan establishing the criteria necessary for starting, controlling, and extinguishing a prescribed burn.
(d) “Extinguished” means that no spreading flame for wild land burning or certified prescribed burning, and no visible flame, smoke, or emissions for vegetative land-clearing debris burning, exist.
(2) NONCERTIFIED BURNING.—
(a) Persons may be authorized to burn wild land or vegetative land-clearing debris in accordance with this subsection if:
1. There is specific consent of the landowner or his or her designee;
2. Authorization has been obtained from the division or its designated agent before starting the burn;
3. There are adequate firebreaks at the burn site and sufficient personnel and firefighting equipment for the control of the fire;
4. The fire remains within the boundary of the authorized area;
5. Someone is present at the burn site until the fire is extinguished;
6. The division does not cancel the authorization; and
7. The division determines that air quality and fire danger are favorable for safe burning.
(b) A person who burns wild land or vegetative land-clearing debris in a manner that violates any requirement of this subsection commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
(3) CERTIFIED PRESCRIBED BURNING; LEGISLATIVE FINDINGS AND PURPOSE.—
(a) The application of prescribed burning is a land management tool that benefits the safety of the public, the environment, and the economy of the state. The Legislature finds that:
1. Prescribed burning reduces vegetative fuels within wild land areas. Reduction of the fuel load reduces the risk and severity of wildfire, thereby reducing the threat of loss of life and property, particularly in urban areas.
2. Most of Florida’s natural communities require periodic fire for maintenance of their ecological integrity. Prescribed burning is essential to the perpetuation, restoration, and management of many plant and animal communities. Significant loss of the state’s biological diversity will occur if fire is excluded from fire-dependent systems.
3. Forestland and rangeland constitute significant economic, biological, and aesthetic resources of statewide importance. Prescribed burning on forestland prepares sites for reforestation, removes undesirable competing vegetation, expedites nutrient cycling, and controls or eliminates certain forest pathogens. On rangeland, prescribed burning improves the quality and quantity of herbaceous vegetation necessary for livestock production.
4. The state purchased hundreds of thousands of acres of land for parks, preserves, wildlife management areas, forests, and other public purposes. The use of prescribed burning for management of public lands is essential to maintain the specific resource values for which these lands were acquired.
5. A public education program is necessary to make citizens and visitors aware of the public safety, resource, and economic benefits of prescribed burning.
6. Proper training in the use of prescribed burning is necessary to ensure maximum benefits and protection for the public.
7. As Florida’s population continues to grow, pressures from liability issues and nuisance complaints inhibit the use of prescribed burning. Therefore, the division is urged to maximize the opportunities for prescribed burning conducted during its daytime and nighttime authorization process.
(b) Certified prescribed burning pertains only to broadcast burning. It must be conducted in accordance with this subsection and:
1. May be accomplished only when a certified prescribed burn manager is present on site with a copy of the prescription from ignition of the burn to its completion.
2. Requires that a written prescription be prepared before receiving authorization to burn from the division.
3. Requires that the specific consent of the landowner or his or her designee be obtained before requesting an authorization.
4. Requires that an authorization to burn be obtained from the division before igniting the burn.
5. Requires that there be adequate firebreaks at the burn site and sufficient personnel and firefighting equipment for the control of the fire.
6. Is considered to be in the public interest and does not constitute a public or private nuisance when conducted under applicable state air pollution statutes and rules.
7. Is considered to be a property right of the property owner if vegetative fuels are burned as required in this subsection.
(c) Neither a property owner nor his or her agent is liable pursuant to s. 590.13 for damage or injury caused by the fire or resulting smoke or considered to be in violation of subsection (2) for burns conducted in accordance with this subsection unless gross negligence is proven.
(d) Any certified burner who violates this section commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
(e) The division shall adopt rules for the use of prescribed burning and for certifying and decertifying certified prescribed burn managers based on their past experience, training, and record of compliance with this section.
(4) WILDFIRE HAZARD REDUCTION TREATMENT BY THE DIVISION.—The division may conduct fuel reduction initiatives, including, but not limited to, burning and mechanical and chemical treatment, on any area of wild land within the state which is reasonably determined to be in danger of wildfire in accordance with the following procedures:
(a) Describe the areas that will receive fuels treatment to the affected local governmental entity.
(b) Publish a treatment notice, including a description of the area to be treated, in a conspicuous manner in at least one newspaper of general circulation in the area of the treatment not less than 10 days before the treatment.
(c) Prepare, and the county tax collector shall include with the annual tax statement, a notice to be sent to all landowners in each township designated by the division as a wildfire hazard area. The notice must describe particularly the area to be treated and the tentative date or dates of the treatment and must list the reasons for and the expected benefits from the wildfire hazard reduction.
(d) Consider any landowner objections to the fuels treatment of his or her property. The landowner may apply to the director of the division for a review of alternative methods of fuel reduction on the property. If the director or his or her designee does not resolve the landowner objection, the director shall convene a panel made up of the local forestry unit manager, the fire chief of the jurisdiction, and the affected county or city manager, or any of their designees. If the panel’s recommendation is not acceptable to the landowner, the landowner may request further consideration by the Commissioner of Agriculture or his or her designee and shall thereafter be entitled to an administrative hearing pursuant to the provisions of chapter 120.
(5) DUTIES OF AGENCIES.—The Department of Education shall incorporate, where feasible and appropriate, the issues of fuels treatment, including prescribed burning, into its educational materials.
History.—s. 9, ch. 99-292; s. 41, ch. 2002-295; s. 21, ch. 2005-210.