News Releases

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 lands.

FWC Facts:
The number of Florida residents who participate in wildlife viewing around their homes (3.3 million) would rank them as the 22nd largest state in the nation.

Learn More at AskFWC