Pasco County has seen its share of brush fires this spring. 

The dry conditions have aided in multiple fires but Pasco Fire officials said Monday that illegal burns also are to blame for numerous fires.

"We have had 410 illegal burns since the burn ban went into effect (on April 12)," said Pasco Emergency Services Director Kevin Guthrie. "That is taxing on our fire departments, taxing on our resources. 

"We're asking - begging - people to comply with the burn ban. We are looking at how can we more effectively put out the (burn ban) message."

Officials have not said how this weekend's fire in the State Road 54 and Gunn Highway area of Odessa started. 

The fire is 90 percent contained. There were no injuries or structures threatened. 

SR 54, Gunn Highway and other roadways in the area have reopened after being closed during Sunday. 

According to Pasco County Fire Rescue, the fire started around 9 a.m. Sunday at the Paw Materials mulching Facility on SR 54. An ember from a small fire at the facility sparked a second fire in the nearby forest.

Gusty winds and dry conditions caused the fire to spread several acres.

About 45 acres burned near the Starkey Wilderness Park, which was evacuated on Sunday. At one point, the fire crowned as flames moved up to tree tops. 

A Blackhawk helicopter was brought in to drop thousands of gallons on the flames. The fire was contained by Sunday evening. 

Crews are watching over hot spots on Monday.

During their news conference Monday, emergency officials said the burn ban has been in place due to the extreme dry conditions. And, the heavy fire activity has come before the rainy season starts when lightning activity can help start more fires.

Officials also added that more enforcement is likely with the burn ban. 

"We are going to actively enforce the burn ban ordinance," said Brian Prill with the Florida Forest Service.  "We will bill for suppression costs (if cause can be pinpointed)." 

Worst in a decade

Photo: Kim Leoffler, staff

Tony Maulorico, a resident of the Suncoast Lakes subdivision in Land O' Lakes, said the dry conditions are the worst he's seen in over a decade of living in the area.

“Definitely the worst, the most dry," Maulorico explained. "They came and they brought the bush hawk through here and ripped out a lot of the underbrush because it’s all ready to go up in flames."

A recent wildfire, dubbed the "Silver Palms Fire" by the Florida Forest Service and Pasco Fire Rescue, came close to Tony's neighborhood just weeks ago.

“(It was) pretty scary because it was lit up into the night and we were told we didn’t need to call anybody, but we could see fires burning over there at three or four different spots. Didn’t really sleep too well that night,” he said.

Maulorico said he's glad authorities are cracking down on the illegal burning, and hopes people realize the risk they could be creating.

“All you have to do is come outside and feel the 92 degree, 95 degree temperature and see the surroundings and know right now it’s not a good time to burn anything,” he said.