Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco County fire officials to seek burn ban

Firefighter Andy Schwankoff douses a fire left behind Friday in the woods in Port Richey. James Nejedly was arrested for setting the fire that authorities say could lead to a larger blaze.

ALEX ORLANDO | Times

Firefighter Andy Schwankoff douses a fire left behind Friday in the woods in Port Richey. James Nejedly was arrested for setting the fire that authorities say could lead to a larger blaze.

PORT RICHEY — Andy Fossa slowed his SUV on Friday when he saw the black column of smoke rising out of the woods, one of numerous fires in the past few months.

The Pasco Fire Rescue training chief pulled off Little Road onto Youth Lane, behind the DialAmerica office near Ridge Road. He followed a trail into the woods.

There he found James Nejedly, 46, sitting on an old couch under a makeshift tarp awning, reading Tribulation Force: the Continuing Drama of Those Left Behind.

Between them, a heap of garbage — a waterbed mattress, a plastic lawn chair and a grill grate — burned black.

"You need to put the fire out," he told Nejedly.

"No," the man replied.

He asked the man a few more times, with the same response. An investigator and a sheriff's deputy showed up. Firefighters quickly doused the flames.

Fossa said small fires like this one have caused larger brush fires lately.

With dry conditions, he said, even contained campfires are risky. Embers from one fire can blow hundreds of feet and cause another.

"You have leaves and embers around, and it takes off," he said.

That's what firefighters believe caused the Hudson fire this week that scorched more than 100 acres of woods, prompting the evacuation of more than 150 people. No one was hurt and no homes were damaged. Pasco fire marshal Donald Campbell said the blaze was started by teens having a bonfire in the woods. Firefighters spent the week snuffing out other flareups around the county.

Campbell said Pasco Fire Rescue will be at the County Commission meeting on Tuesday to suggest a burn ban.

"Everything out here right now is just too dry in Pasco," he said. "We don't recommend any type of burning at all."

Back beside the woods Friday, Nejedly leaned on a Fire Rescue SUV in handcuffs. Unless there is a burn ban, fires are legal in Pasco if they are ceremonial, recreational or for warmth.

Because the temperature was 90-plus degrees Friday afternoon and Nejedly was burning plastic, authorities ruled out those three exemptions. Nejedly also does not own the land.

He said he set up camp there in hopes of getting a job at DialAmerica. He was living on $25 a month in food stamps.

"I'm trying to get my life together," he said.

He was arrested on a charge of intentional or reckless burning of lands. He was being booked into Land O'Lakes jail on Friday evening.

Alex Orlando can be reached at aorlando@tampabay.com or (727) 869-6247.

Pasco County fire officials to seek burn ban 05/04/12 [Last modified: Friday, May 4, 2012 7:31pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Southwest Airlines to offer flights from Tampa to San Diego

    Airlines

    TAMPA — Southwest Airlines will offer new nonstop service from Tampa International Airport to San Diego International Airport beginning Jan. 8, 2018.

    Southwest Airlines is planning to launch service from Tampa to San Diego.
[Times file photo]
  2. The greatest coaches never to win it all

    College

    As foregone conclusions go, some things are approaching the death-and-taxes stratosphere: summer humidity in Florida, a Kardashian seeking attention, and Mike Martin coming up short in Omaha.

    Florida State coach Mike Martin walks to the mound to talk to pitcher Cole Sands during the second inning of the team's NCAA College World Series baseball game against LSU Wednesday in Omaha, Neb. [AP photo]
  3. Tampa Bay homes values continue to rise along with sales prices

    Real Estate

    For the second month in a row, Tampa Bay had one of the highest year -over-year increases in home values in May, Zillow reported today.

    For the second month in a row, Tampa Bay had one of the highest year -over-year increases in home values in May, Zillow reported Thursday.
[Times file photo]
  4. Busy start has Florida Hospital Center Ice dreaming big

    Tourism

    WESLEY CHAPEL — Opening day brought 600 doctors, administrators and their families from Florida Hospital. Soon after that, the facility hosted its first junior league game and a collegiate showdown. A few weeks later, 200 kids, ages 4 to 9, participated in national Learn to Play Hockey Day.

    Alex Senushkin and his grandson, Styopa Kulshyn, 3, of Lakeland, skate at the Florida Hospital Center Ice rink in Wesley Chapel.
[CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times]

  5. Charlie Crist calls for national day of civility

    Blogs

    WASHINGTON – A week after a gunman opened fire on a group of Republicans, Rep. Charlie Crist this morning called for the establishment of a national day of civility, saying “the need for action could not be more urgent.”

    A note from Rep. Charlie Crist