Keeping Firelines Open as Wildfire Risk Peaks

29 Apr 2020

Over the last few weeks, alternating Wildlife & Habitat Management staff who are working alone to adhere to social distancing standards have been working to keep the firelines open and accessible in case of wildfires on conservation lands, as well as for any controlled burns that could happen this summer.  

The dry season also allows staff to access areas that are normally too wet to bring heavy machinery in to restore open wetlands that are transitioning to closed-canopy forests because burns have not occurred frequently enough. This is mostly due to improper conditions such as wind direction, dispersion, and mixing height during our small burn window. The late dry season is a really important part of the year to get land management tasks completed before the summer rains begin and fill in wetlands and firelines once more.

During peak dry season, many wildlife species are dormant or limit their activity to preserve water.  Many plant species also enter dormancy looking less green and lush as usual. Due to the moisture loss in these plants, incidents of wildfire in southwest Florida are at their peak.  

Although some wildlfires are human-induced (both accidental and intentional), others are from natural causes and part of the fire cycle that keeps pyrogenic habitats (habitats requiring fire) functioning for native flora and fauna. Natural wildfires are those created from natural phenomena such as lightning strikes or the spontaneous combustion caused by decaying vegetation in certain circumstances. This is nature’s way of preserving these ecosystems whose inhabitants are adapted to exist in pyrogenic landscapes.

Unfortunately, wildfires are unpredictable and can be a hazard to people and their properties. Land managers use prescribed fire or controlled burning as a way to keep the land in a natural state by eliminating built-up fuels (decaying vegetation) which also helps protect people and their property. Unlike wildfires, prescribed burning allows us to choose the day with the right atmospheric conditions, the appropriate staff, and equipment to manage the fire.