Prescribed fires benefit people and wildlife
As I See It
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Media contact: Rodney Barreto
Beginning in the winter and continuing into the summer months,
land managers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission (FWC) conduct prescribed fires on wildlife management
areas to reduce the chance of wildfires and improve wildlife
habitat. Fire is a powerful force that has dramatically shaped
Florida's natural environment in the past, as it continues to do so
today. Many of Florida's plant and animal species are
dependent upon fire for their survival. Because of this,
prescribed fire is one of the most effective wildlife management
tools used by the FWC. Jimmy Conner, our agency's wild-land fire
coordinator, orchestrates these important efforts in coordination
with our state and federal partners.
Although fire is essential for many of our plants and animals,
fires that burn uncontrolled can have devastating impacts upon
people, wildlife and natural lands. The application of
prescribed fires can help reduce the risk of these uncontrolled
wildfires and their potential for damage.
Fire managers prepare a detailed, written plan or "prescription"
for each burn they conduct. These plans contain information
such as the burn location, a description of the area, preferred
weather conditions, and personnel and equipment needs. Each member
of the burn crew has received specialized training to ensure the
burn is carried out safely and effectively.
Weather plays a crucial role in prescribed fires. Burn managers
carefully watch the weather conditions, which must meet specific
criteria, before they conduct a burn. Once the decision to burn has
been made, the FWC works closely with the Florida Division of
Forestry to ensure the burn is conducted safely and all necessary
permits are obtained.
The biggest challenge to prescribed burning is effectively
managing the smoke that is produced. Burn managers use
computer models to determine where their smoke will go based on
current weather conditions and forecasts. "Smoke" caution signs are
placed on roads that may experience reduced visibility during and
after a burn. In addition, local residents and businesses are
contacted using fliers, phone calls, e-mails and news
releases. We know that in order to continue applying
prescribed fire to Florida's Wildlife Management Area system; we
must do a good job of managing the fire's smoke.
The use of prescribed fire is essential for managing Florida's
wild lands for the safety of people and the long-term well-being of
wildlife. Specifically, prescribed fires reduce the risk (to humans
and wildlife) of wildfires; control invasive and/or exotic
vegetation and diseases affecting native vegetation; enhance native
ground cover and seed production; and restore and maintain
fire-dependent ecological sites.
The FWC is dedicated to properly managing our natural resources
by applying prescribed fire in a safe and effective manner to
maintain and enhance the quality of Florida's managed conservation