Florida Foresters Setting Fires On Purpose | News

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Florida Foresters Setting Fires On Purpose
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CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- Firefighters are busy all over the state fighting wildfires, but they are also setting fires on purpose.

360 acres were torched in the Jennings State Forest on Wednesday as part of a prescribed burn designed to reduce the fuel that could lead to giant wildfires during the upcoming busy fire season.

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"If you have very low rough on the ground that was burned two years ago and there is a wildfire, you are looking at 6 to 8 foot flames," said Annaleasa Winter of the Florida Forest Service.

"If the fuel is unmanaged and the vegetation is allowed to grow wild and never burned, you might be looking at 30 to 40-foot flames that firefighters are trying to battle. Prescribed burns will make the next wildfire in this area easier to contain with minimal damage."

The weather is perfect for these burns, having had recent rainfall in the area combined with calm winds and high humidity.

The burn has another benefit. It is part of an uplands ecological restoration project, making the forest a better ecosystem for animals.

"The ground sprouts up pretty quickly after one of these burns," said Brian Camposano, a biologist with the Florida Forest Service. "It really helps diversify the habitat, it brings back different types of grasses and legumes, and different food items, and different kinds of cover for animals, a more mosaical habitat."

The certified burners conducting these prescribed burns undergo 40 hours of training to make sure prescribed burns are safe and don't escape and cause unwanted damage. "It is very rare that we ge escapes. We focus on mop up on these fires and make sure it is cook, we focus on that so it doesn't happen. We strive very hard to make sure that is the case," said Winter.

These efforts hopefully will reduce the number of wildfires this spring season, which is expected to still be hectic.

"The next couple of months, with the lightning we have already seen and the May lightning expected, we do anticipate being very busy the next couple of months."  

If the conditions are right, they will take every oppurtunity to do these prescribed burns through July.

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