Prescribed fire benefits Walton forests

January 26, 2017

A recent prescribed burn in Point Washington State Forest. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Ever wonder why Forestry Service and our State parks set fire to the forest? With more than 20,000 acres of managed forest in South Walton, it’s important to know the answer to the burning question.

The answer is quite simple – to preserve a healthy environment. Not only does the wildlife thrive after a burn, the forest floor rejuvenates to a proper natural balance.

Many of Florida’s ecosystems such as longleaf pine sandhills, flatwoods and sand pine scrub cannot survive without fire. Burns release nutrients and light into the forest floor allowing regeneration of native plants that feed wildlife. If the forests are not burned regularly, leaf litter and shrubs accumulate, choking native fire-adaptive plants. This starves wildlife and creates the risk of uncontrollable wildfires.

Forestry personnel igniting a prescribed fire with drip torch. A combination of diesel and gasoline is used. Lori Ceier/Watlon Outdoors

Prescribed fire is one of the most versatile and cost effective tools land managers use. Prescribed fire is used to reduce hazardous fuel buildups, thus providing increased protection to people, their homes, and the forest.

Wildfire is fire at the wrong time, the wrong place, and frequently the wrong intensity and severity. Wildfire—fire that is uncontrolled by definition—costs the Florida taxpayers millions of dollars each year.

What is Prescribed Fire?
Prescribed burning is the controlled application of fire under specified environmental conditions, following appropriate precautionary measures, which allows the fire to be confined to a predetermined area and accomplishes the planned land management objectives.

Why is fire in a woodland setting considered good at one time and bad at another? The answer can be found in almost all facets of nature. Most people will agree that rain is good. Without rain, the forest would not be able to grow. The same can be said for sunshine. However, excessive amounts of either of these two elements can be ruinous. The same formula applies to fire. The appropriate amount of fire, applied at just the right time and in just the right amount, is as necessary to the forest and the animals that live there, as rain and sunshine.

Protecting people and forests from wildfire is a definite necessity. But this protection often produces heavy accumulations of underbrush and ground cover. During extended dry periods, this underbrush becomes vulnerable to wildfire. If a wildfire should occur under these circumstances, you would naturally expect great losses to both the trees and the animals.

Learn more about the benefits of prescribed burning here.

To find out if a prescribed burn is about to occur in your area click here.