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Working with Fire

Prescribed fire is a land management tool used on many public lands to improve wildlife habitat and forest health and to prevent wildfires. Because lightning does not always strike at our convenience, land managers have learned to use and control its consequences — fire.

Any prescription for fire takes into consideration fuel type, fuel moisture, relative humidity, air temperature, wind speed and wind direction. Prescribed fires are planned, set and extinguished by trained professionals under permits issued by the Florida Forest Service. This fiscal year, the Florida Park Service plans to apply prescribed fire to 105,000 acres across Florida – more than any previous year. 

In November 2016, the Florida Park Service, in collaboration with the Florida Forest Service, conducted a prescribed fire that successfully burned 6,000 acres at Fakahatchee Strand State Park – the largest prescribed fire in Florida State Park history. The Florida Park Service had 22 crew members on-site using a variety of fire engines, vehicles and equipment to ensure the fire was safely controlled both by land and air.

Many of Florida’s natural systems, such as flatwoods, pine sandhills and sand pine/scrub oak communities, depend on fire to remain healthy. In Florida’s state parks and preserves, fire-dependent systems shelter many threatened and endangered plant and animal species, including the black bear, scrub-jay, indigo snake, gopher tortoise and scrub holly. Fire is essential to the health of systems adapted to periodic fire. For example, a springtime controlled fire in the St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve allowed five rare plants that had never been documented in the area to bloom in summer.

Prescribed burns also reduce fuel – underbrush and deadfall – that builds up on forest floors. If fuels are not reduced periodically, wildfires can intensify and become destructive. Prescribed burns are conducted so that when lightning does strike, fires are more easily extinguished to protect lives and property.

Additional benefits of prescribed fires include:

  • Stimulating new plant growth and flowering, which is also additional food and shelter for wildlife.
  • Preparing the forest floor by removing dead vegetation so that new growth can establish.
  • Helping control damaging insects and diseases that affect trees and native vegetation
  • Reducing scrub vegetation height to a level suitable for small wildlife.
  • Recycling nutrients through the ecosystem.
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Last Modified:
February 1, 2018 - 11:03am

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