Last week we told you about the first-ever prescribed burn approved for a median in Florida. The stormy weather expected Monday night pushed this burn up. Environmental reporter Ray Hawthorne had a close-up look at this unique event and files this report.
Sizzling flames and puffs of smoke lifted above the median on Highway 319 near County Road 12 shortly after noon Monday. This prescribed burn may have been a brief inconvenience for travelers, but forestry officials say it's happening for good reason.
James Harrell says, "With the fire dependent vegetation that's being planted, there's no other way to manage it except with fire. Without fire those plants don't flourish. The long-length pines don't do good, so it's essential for managing upland piney woods with fire."
The Division of Forestry conducted a safety meeting and then set a test burn to make sure conditions were not too windy. After that, the prescribed burn went without a hitch, but officials had contingency plans just in case.
Larry Morris says, "We have things in place like additional equipment, additional resources come in. We have a medical plan intact, air rescue. Also, we have to monitor this traffic today."
Speaking of traffic, the Florida and Georgia Highway Patrols also assisted with the effort.
"We're going to have troopers stationed at each end. We'll be dropping down to one lane where the barricades are located simply to monitor traffic and make sure that nothing happens."
And by all indications, everything went according to plan. Officials say that these prescribed burns will not harm wildlife in the area. In fact, these fires produce habitat so that the species can thrive.