Prescribed Fire Awareness Week Promotes Its Importance

Posted on January 26, 2021 by Staff reports

Eglin Air Force Base is one of several local areas managed by prescribed burns. Eglin’s Fire Management Division applies prescribed fire to around 90,000 acres per year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Randy Gon)

Florida’s Prescribed Fire Awareness Week is January 24 – 30, and Florida Forestry Service Officials hope the effort will help inform citizens about the importance and effectiveness of the tool used to curb wildfires and promote forest growth. According to FFS, it’s the most valuable tool they have to manage the state’s fire-dependent, fire-prone landscapes.

Local residents typically observe large plumes of smoke in the distance during winter and early spring, although some prescribed burning also takes place during the summer growing season. What they may not realize is how prescribed burning clears out overgrowth which can fuel catastrophic wildfires, making them less severe.

Additionally, prescribed burning can help keep forests healthy and protect biodiversity. For example, bobwhite quail are unable to walk through overgrown forest floors and Bachman’s sparrows need recently burned areas to nest.

In our area, prescribed burns are actively used as a forest management tool at Gulf Islands National Seashore’s Naval Live Oaks Reserve, Escribano Wildlife Management Area, Eglin Air Force Base property, Blackwater River State Forest and Blackwater River State Park.

“Prescribed fire is the most valuable tool we have to manage Florida’s fire-dependent and fire-prone landscapes,” said Erin Albury, State Forester and Director of the Florida Forest Service. “With a long-term, sustained approach, we can significantly reduce the chances of catastrophic wildfires and maintain the health of our forests. Partnering with Tall Timbers provides new opportunities for collaboration between public and private entities responsible for prescribed fire and further exemplifies our mission to serve and protect Floridians.”

Dr. Bill Palmer, President/CEO of Tall Timbers added, “We are excited to partner with the Florida Forest Service on the new awareness initiative. It takes a team effort to sustain prescribed fire use at a landscape scale with a mix of public and private landowners. Tall Timbers is working as a convener within the national fire community to bring scientists and fire practitioners together to develop the tools and training needed for a resilient and safe future for our natural areas and our communities.”

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The Florida Forest Service, a division of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, manages more than 1 million acres of state forests and provides forest management assistance on more than 17 million acres of private and community forests. The Florida Forest Service is also responsible for protecting homes, forestland and natural resources from the devastating effects of wildfire on more than 26 million acres.