Tallahassee, FL –
Local residents and visitors may see some smoke in the air beginning in October when the U.S. Forest Service starts its prescribed fire season. Approximately 100,000 acres in the Apalachicola National Forest are planned for prescribed fire to help prevent wildfires and promote a healthy forest.
Plants and animals native to the longleaf pine habitats in the Apalachicola National Forest depend on natural fire cycles, which are mimicked through the use of prescribed fires to balance habitat and food sources. Prescribed burning is also one of the most effective land management tools used in preventing the outbreak and spread of wildfires.
“Prescribed fire plays an integral part in reducing fuels, improving wildlife habitat, and controlling disease,” said Lynne Howard, who directs the U.S. Forest Service’s fire efforts for the National Forests in Florida.
Pre-planned prescribed burns are carefully analyzed and conducted under specific weather conditions. Specific calendar dates for burn activities are fluid because only when conditions are right can prescribed burns achieve desired results.
“Because prescribed fires depend on having the correct weather conditions, the decision to burn is made very close to the actual burn time, said Steve Parrish, U.S. Forest Service fire management officer for the Apalachicola National Forest. “Fire managers study variables such as temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, how the smoke will disperse and rainfall patterns.”
Drivers and residents are reminded of the possibility of unexpected shifting winds that could increase the risk of smoke on the road during prescribed burns. Always proceed with caution and please remember to reduce speed and turn headlights on if visibility is affected by smoky conditions.
The National Forests in Florida is among those leading the nation in prescribed fire. Prescribed burning is conducted every three to five years in which approximately 100,000 – 175,000 acres of national forest lands are burned annually in the Ocala, Osceola and Apalachicola National Forests.
If you have questions regarding the prescribed fire burning season, contact the Apalachicola National Forest's Crawfordville office at (850) 926-3561.