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Fire crews busy with blazes

(ran PC edition of Pasco Times)

Three brush fires, four blazes at homes and one in a boat are reported in 24 hours in Hernando.

Hernando County firefighters received little rest Thursday as they battled no fewer than eight blazes in the 24 hours after officials declared Florida in a state of severe drought emergency.

Although no flames came close to the magnitude of those burning in Sarasota County, three brush fires, four house fires and a boat fire kept local officials hopping from blaze to blaze. Weather was a factor in many cases, officials said.

"It was dry, and the wind kicked up this morning," said Capt. Rick Day of the Northwest Fire Department.

State Agriculture Commissioner Bob Crawford has banned all outdoor burning except for barbecuing. Despite the precaution, local firefighters said they foresee a busy summer given the record low amount of rain.

"It's upon us," Brooksville firefighter Mike Dow said. "We knew it was coming."

Among the calls officials received Wednesday and Thursday were the following:

+ A brush fire off Jasmine Drive between Mondon Hill Road and Cortez Boulevard, which flamed up at 5:48 p.m. Thursday. The blaze was difficult to put out because of tough underbrush but was contained after officials from the Division of Forestry cut a ring around it.

+ A large ranch-style Ridge Manor home for sale at 3377 Roundtree Drive that was heavily damaged at about 3 p.m. No one was injured at the time of the blaze. The cause is still being investigated, although the homeowner said the fire started in his car and spread to the house.

+ A boat fire on Bystre Lake. No one was hurt; officials released no further details.

+ A kitchen fire at 9:30 a.m. at 8142 Sturbridge Court. Authorities said a stove was left on while no one was home, causing $3,000 in damage. No one was injured.

+ A suspicious 10-acre brush fire north of Weeki Wachee near Mirage Avenue and Cleever Street. Officials from the Northwest Fire Department, the Division of Forestry and Citrus County were able to extinguish the blaze about an hour after they received the call at 9:30 a.m., before it threatened homes. Investigators said they had found two points of origin for the fire and thought it had been deliberately set.

+ Another suspicious brush fire behind Camp-A-Wyle, 9298 Grizzly Bear Lane, at 3:20 a.m. Northwest fire officials contained the damage to a lake bed. They do not know whether the fire was related to the one on Mirage Avenue.

+ A third Ridge Manor house fire that started at 2:30 a.m. at 34704 Dogwood Drive. The fire was caused by a malfunctioning fan on a back porch, said East Hernando Chief Danny Roberts. The blaze traveled through the rear of the house to the roof and caused at least $30,000 in damage.

+ A fire that gutted a mobile home at 33087 Cassandra Lane when a lighted candle fell behind a dresser and ignited a wall. The family was moving, and the candles were being used because the electricity already had been cut off, a Hernando County sheriff's report said. No one was injured, although the mobile home sustained $5,000 to $10,000 in damage.

A woman who worked at the Camp-A-Wyle General Store said news of all the fires was spreading Thursday.

"We smelled all the smoke this afternoon," said Terry D'Amato.

New watering rules

Hernando County has changed the days on which residents may water their lawns. The new rules took effect Saturday. To report violations, call the county Code Enforcement office at 754-4056 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. After hours, call the Sheriff's Office at 754-6830 or leave a message at 754-4005 or 520-4014.

Addresses ending in: Water on:

0,1 Monday

2,3 Tuesday

4,5 Wednesday

6,7 Thursday

8,9, no address Friday

No watering is allowed on Saturday or Sunday. All watering must take place before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.

Hand watering of plants, shrubs and gardens is permitted at any time with soaker hoses or a nozzle.

Hand watering of lawn is permitted only on the designated watering day.

Car washing is permitted with a nozzle to control water flow.

New lawns may be watered up to 60 days consecutively. However, the watering must take place between 4 p.m. and 10 a.m.

Source: Hernando County