Highlands County is protected this morning, but by our neighbors to the north. Beginning at 6pm last night, Polk County Sheriff’s department personnel took over handling calls in Highlands to allow personnel from our local department to attend Deputy William Gentry’s memorial service this morning and related events. A release from the Department here asks that non emergency calls be kept to a minimum, but that necessary – and, of course, emergency – calls will be handled promptly and answered by Polk County personnel until 6am tomorrow morning.
Governor Rick Scott has ordered all flags on state buildings here in Highlands County as well as in Tallahassee flown at half-staff today in honor of Highlands County Deputy Sherriff William Gentry. Gentry’s public memorial service is scheduled for today at the Highlands County Fairgrounds Convention Center – its coinciding with Peace Officers’ Memorial Day means over a thousand law enforcement personnel from around this part of the state are expected to join in honoring Gentry. There will be a funeral procession beginning at the Lakeshore Mall parking lot south on Highway 27 to Highlands, then in to the Fairgrounds. That’ll result in road closures to allow for the traffic starting around 9:30 as the procession takes place in advance of the 11am service.
Florida Forest Service officials declared that pesky Jacks’ Wildfire near Leisure Lakes 100% Controlled as of 11:10 yesterday morning. “Contained” doesn’t mean “out” – it does mean forward spread of the fire has been stopped, and that’s good news for both property owners and drivers in the area who’ve been smelling, seeing – and in some case, not being able to see through – the effects of that and the Mini Ranch Fire. The Forest Service says that the week’s rain combined with firefighting water pumping operations has contributed to getting both under control, but the muck is still burning in places three feet below the surface. A good dousing from above this week gives hope that the remaining hot spots could be extinguished.