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Man’s Decision to Burn Books Causes Massive Fire

— March 27, 2017

A man’s innocent intent to burn some unneeded books turned into the most massive wildland fire in Nassau County, Florida, since 1998.

What started out as one man’s innocent intent to burn some unneeded paperback books and magazines on Wednesday, March 29th, turned into most massive and destructive wildland fire in Nassau County, Florida, since 1998.

Books start massive, destructive forest fire
Image Courtesy of Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety

Last week, an unidentified man had decided to do away with some of his trash, according to authorities, and set some paper ablaze in the backyard of his Bryceville, Florida residence, just 20 miles west of Jacksonville.  However, dry, gusty winds blew the paper away from the initial burn site, soon sparking a dangerous fire.  

By the time firefighters were called to the scene, nearly five acres had been consumed by flames.  They were initially were able to contain the blaze, but lost control of it again and it quickly spiraled out of control.

“What happened next was we had 40 to 50 miles-per-hour gusts of winds, and it pushed the embers right outside of the fire line and it just ran through a very dense forest and threatened many homes,” Annaleasa Winter of the Florida Forest Service, said on Wednesday night, in a briefing.  She confirmed during the interview, “At least two homes are lost.”  

“By the time we were pulling stuff out of the house into the trucks, the fire was already taking out [the] gazebo, taking out the pool deck. It was already in the backyard,” said one area resident Randy Hoke.  He had just arrived home when he was instructed by authorities to evacuate the premises.

The man’s careless decision ended up destroying 700 acres in total, consuming two homes, and damaging at least six others, along with nearly twenty barns and sheds in neighboring yards. The man did not have a permit to start the fire, and Winter stated, “It was an illegal burn. It was paper. It got away from him.”  

The man was cited and received a hefty forestry bill, but has not been charged with a crime just yet, although the potential is there.  “This was not malicious,” Winter assured the public.  “But he will be liable for the cost of fighting the fire and any damage done.”  

The massive fire was inconvenient for many, to say the least.  150 residents in total were ordered to vacate the Nassau County area during the incident.  It ceased to continue spreading on Thursday, March 23rd, and was eventually fully contained by the end of the day.  

Books start massive fire
Image Courtesy of Valens Point

Nassau County Emergency Management kept everyone updated on Twitter throughout the ordeal, thanking responders for their efforts.  “The goodwill of our community is awesome!” it tweeted.

In 1998, Nassau County was subjected to a massive wildfire, which will now be considered the second largest in the area’s history with destruction estimated today at nearly $600 million. Authorities are currently begging residents to comply with burn restrictions because a longer than normal fire season is anticipated across Florida, Texas and Oklahoma as warmer weather and a lack of moisture lingers, according to the National Interagency Fire Center, the logistical and support center for the United States wildland firefighting, based in Boise, Idaho.


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