District partners with community for wildfire prevention event

MAITLAND, Fla., June 10, 2016 — St. Johns River Water Management District staff recently met with residents in Orange and Brevard counties to talk about wildfire safety and how they can work together to reduce the risk of fire damage to their homes through prescribed fire. The meetings are part of the residents’ ongoing participation in the national Firewise Communities fire prevention program for homeowners.

“The benefit of prescribed fire to communities and landowners is multifaceted, and we are proud to share our knowledge with residents,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. “By working together, we are taking a proactive approach to help protect homes and land.”

“Wildfires burn when conditions are dangerous, producing smoke that impacts highways and residences. Conducting prescribed burns when conditions are favorable helps avoid the risks of wildfire,” said district Regional Land Manager Peter Henn, who presented at the event. “By participating in the Firewise initiative their community is safer from wildfire and has made the district’s job of managing the ecology of its nearby Canaveral Marshes Conservation Area easier.”

Prescribed fire — the use of carefully planned fire purposefully set under stringent conditions to control the fire’s effects — is used by the district to control fuels that build up in natural areas, reducing the fuels that could feed wildfires. Attendees are residents of The Great Outdoors in Brevard County and residents of Wedgefield in Orange County; both communities are near or adjacent to district-owned land.

During the event, district staff reviewed the prescribed burn plan for surrounding areas, how prescribed burns work and the benefits to communities. In addition to reducing chances of destructive wildfires by burning off fuels that naturally build up over time benefits also include restoring and maintaining natural communities, perpetuating fire-adapted plants and animals, cycling nutrients, controlling tree diseases and opening scenic vistas.

Since the start of the fiscal year in October, the district has completed 59 prescribed burns on nearly 25,500 acres.

Additional information about prescribed fire is available online at www.sjrwmd.com.