Prescribed fires help reduce risks of wildfires

June 30, 2022

A field of rain lilies blooming

Atamasco lilies (Rain lilies) at Emeralda Marsh CA following a prescribed fire.

As the July Fourth weekend nears, many are thinking about their holiday events that may include celebrating with larger city or county-sponsored firework shows or at small backyard observances with fireworks. The potential of a firework spark igniting a wildfire exists due to the dry conditions in some areas of the St. Johns River Water Management District.

District staff stand ready to fight wildfires on District lands and to help the Florida Forest Service and local governments and other partners should wildfires ignite on other public lands. At the same time, our staff have routinely taken steps to help minimize wildfire risks on the lands owned and managed by the District. The District owns or manages more than 700,000 acres across our 18-county service area, purchased to protect water resources. On these lands, we use prescribed fire to mimic nature, burning away brush and excessive fuels, and helping to maintain the health and diversity of fire-dependent ecosystems and manage tree diseases.

Since 1993 when the District began its prescribed fire program, we have burned 704,424 acres in 1,704 prescribed fires. We average approximately 25,000 acres annually, which is typically about 57 burns. Safety is a top priority when conducting prescribed fires. Staff spend many hours training each year. In fact, 18 of our 36 Bureau of Land Resources staff are Florida Certified Burn Managers, with 34 staff members fire trained. Staff take great care to plan and safely carry out these intentionally set fires, for example confirming that weather conditions on burn days are suitable to manage the fire’s effects and making last minute changes as needed.

Peak wildfire season is April to June in Florida due to typically dry weather, high sun angle and reduced humidity that creates brush fire danger, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Our staff monitor rainfall conditions not only for land management purposes, but to make the best science-based decisions for our varied restoration and construction projects, and to share with the public and other agencies. If you see or smell smoke, you can check on reported wildfires using the Florida Forest Service’s Fire Management Information System.

However you plan to celebrate the Fourth, we urge everyone to keep your celebrations safe.

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