Northwest Florida is at an increasing risk of wildfires for the spring season. In an effort to be prepared, Forest Rangers are intentionally setting fires. News 13’s Peyton LoCicero spent the day with them and has more.
Prescribing a planned fire, makes for a healthy forest and that is what they are doing here at Point Washington.
“The natural ecosystem of Florida relies on fires. So, what we do is, put that prescribed burn in the area. Uhm, with a lack of fire, wildfire will be more rampant,” said Hannah Bowers, Wildfire Mitigation Specialist.
A prescribed burn isn’t like a wildfire. It is planned and controlled.
“Prescribed burn is just simulating the natural environment, where we do it in safe conditions. We have a plan and an order of operation,” explained Mike Mathis, Chipola Center Manager
For Thursday’s job, rangers prescribed 23 acres to be burned. After selecting certain acreage, the rangers walk the area lining it with fire. As the foliage burns, they keep a close eye for potential hazards and keep the fire from spreading.
“This week, January 28th thru February 3rd is Prescribed Fire Awareness Week. During this week, we really encourage prescribed fires because they are vital in role in reducing that wildfire risk,” explained Bowers.
Point Washington State Forest runs on a prescribed burn rotation. It’s divided into four so, once an area is burned it won’t be burned again until four years later.
There are several benefits to this type of burning.
“It’s good for wildlife where is creates habitat, foliage, recreational purposed aesthetics. It opens up the forest to where you can really see things,” said Mathis.
While the smoke is a minor inconvenience, the prescribed burns prevent outbreaks of wildfires in the future.
Florida is known to have the most robust prescribed burn program in the country. Florida forest officials say within a few weeks after a burn, new growth can be seen.