District partners with community for wildfire prevention event

Aerial of a prescribed fire burning next to a neighborhood

Weather conditions direct smoke away from a community during a previous prescribed burn.

Weather conditions direct smoke away from a community during a previous prescribed burn.

MAITLAND, Fla., Aug. 14, 2017 — St. Johns River Water Management District staff recently met with Orange County residents 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 benefit of prescribed fire to communities and landowners is multifaceted, and we are grateful for the opportunity to share our knowledge with residents,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. “Even though summer rain has left us soggy, it’s important to remember the value of prescribed fire and how it helps prevent wildfires that are more common in dry weather.”

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.

The district partnered with the Florida Forest Service and Orange County Fire and Rescue for the meeting with residents of Wedgefield in Orange County, which is adjacent to district-owned land. The meetings are part of the residents’ ongoing participation in the national Firewise Communities fire prevention program for homeowners.

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.

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