PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. — If you see billowing smoke coming from forest areas over the next several months, officials say, ‘don’t be alarmed;’ prescribed burn season has begun in areas of Bay County, like Conservation Park in Panama City Beach, this week.
“Every year we like to perform controlled burns throughout the park,” said Lietenant Shawn Legleiter of Panama City Beach Fire Rescue. “We like to keep them on a three year rotation.”
Lieutenant Legleiter and his crews ignite the fires in Conservation Park for very important reasons.
“This is to enhance, obviously, the habitat and reduce any hazards if a wildfire shall happen sometime in the spring during fire season,” said Legleiter.
He said it clears unnecessary undergrowth and potentially invasive plant and insect species, getting rid of excess fuels for potential wildfires, like shrubs.
The fires also give the park’s pine trees more room to breath.
“We manage this undergrowth and it reduces the competition for our new seedlings and our new pine trees to flourish and to grow,” said Legleiter.
The fires are very tightly coordinated and monitored; Legleiter said it takes a big team to make it happen, with look-outs, patrollers and fire starters.
“To do a controlled burn takes a lot of planning,” he said. “There are a lot of resources involved to do it safely and to apply the fire in an appropriate way.”
The prescribed burns will continue periodically through March, ensuring a sustainable future for the wildlife and a safer spring-time for residents and visitors.