News Update for 05/22/24

Yesterday, Highlands County officials issued an immediate burn ban for Highlands County. Under the burn ban, no burning, residential or otherwise of any kind, may take place without a state of Florida Forest Service permit. The burn ban applies to all unincorporated areas of Highlands County, including Lorida and Venus, Sun ‘n Lake Improvement District, Spring Lake Improvement District, and the municipalities of Avon Park, Lake Placid, and Sebring. The burn ban is in effect through June 20th, but it may be lifted earlier or extended as conditions change.

Fire rescue crews were dispatched to a brush fire in a heavily wooded area off Granada Boulevard and Cortez Boulevard in Sun N’ Lake of Sebring yesterday afternoon. In an 11:00pm update from Highlands County Fire Rescue, the brush fire is estimated to be around 150 acres and is burning within the control lines. A fire break with 20-foot wet lines has been established. No structures are in danger and crews are expected to be back on scene this morning.

The Highlands County Sheriff’s Office is mourning the loss of retired K-9 Lady. Lady passed away Tuesday after spending more than a decade in service to Highlands County and a year in retirement. Lady joined the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office as a single purpose Narcotics K-9 in 2013 and was placed with Handler Deputy Jose Molina. She is credited with an average of more than 300 deployments and 60 arrests per year.

And the 2024 Florida Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday is starting soon. It will run two weeks starting June 1st and ending on June 14th. The next two-week sales tax holiday is set for Aug. 24th through September 6th. During the Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax holidays, you may purchase qualifying items exempt from sales tax, saving you money as you get prepared. The sales tax holiday does not apply to the rental or repair of any of the qualifying items. The sales tax holiday also doesn’t apply to sales in a theme park, entertainment complex, public lodging establishment or airport.

A woman surrendered herself to law enforcement nearly a year after a hit-and-run crash that killed a bicyclist, according to Lakeland police. Cassidy Mullis turned herself in at a Polk County Sheriff’s Office processing center in Frostproof on Monday. Investigators said Mullis was driving a 2018 Nissan Sentra on June 25, 2023, when she hit Paul Ruis while he was riding a bike on Bartow Road. Mullis fled the scene and Ruis died from his injuries. Investigators found the Sentra in Winter Haven and it had damage consistent with the crash. Officers were also able to get DNA evidence off of the car. Mullis admitted to driving the Sentra at the time of the crash and is facing a charge of leaving the scene of a crash involving death.

The Highlands County Tourist Development Council has approved the funding of drag boat races on Lake June in the fall. The TDC voted to provide the Southern Outlaw Drag boat Association $17,125 for 2024, and $18,312.50 for both 2025 and 2026 for its fall nationals in Lake Placid. The town is expecting thousands of spectators over the first race weekend, which is scheduled for Sept. 7th and 8th. The race will return over the next two years.

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