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Prescribed Burns Protect and Preserve Natural Habitats

The right fire at the right place at the right time:

  • Improves habitat for threatened and endangered species
  • Removes unwanted species that threaten species native to an ecosystem
  • Provides forage for game
  • Recycles nutrients back to the soil
  • Promotes the growth of trees, wildflowers, and other plants
  • Reduces hazardous fuels, protecting human communities from extreme fires
  • Minimizes the spread of pest insects and disease

The Forest Service manages prescribed fires and even some wildfires to benefit natural resources and reduce the risk of unwanted wildfires in the future.

More prescribed fires mean fewer extreme wildfires.

Specialists write burn plans for prescribed fires. Burn plans identify – or prescribe – the best conditions under which trees and other plants will burn to get the best results safely. Burn plans consider temperature, humidity, wind, moisture of the vegetation, and conditions for the dispersal of smoke. Prescribed fire specialists compare conditions on the ground to those outlined in burn plans before deciding whether to burn on a given day.


Why does OUC participate in prescribed burns?

We take pride in the preserve that we have established and maintain around our Stanton Energy Center. Our preserve includes wetlands, cypress sloughs, beautiful slash pines, and is teeming with wildlife including several endangered species. To ensure the health of the preserve, federal and state regulations require the OUC to manage the land through annual prescribed burns. These burns are highly regulated and follow state and federal burn guidelines.


Which animals live in the preserve?

OUC is proud of its population of Red Cockaded Woodpeckers, which are identified as a federally-endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The preserve is also home to more than 40 species of animals including deer, eagles, red foxes and the gopher tortoise, which is a threatened species in Florida.


How do you decide where to burn?

Before conducting a prescribed burn OUC engages the services of highly trained specialists that include arborists and biologists who take an inventory of the types of trees on the property and the different animal species that call the preserve home. Based on these assessments, and with federal and state approval, OUC decides where and when to conduct the burns. The survey maps out bird colonies, and gopher tortoise habitats. Prescribed burns are then conducted in a way that accommodates all the species living in the preserve.


Who conducts the burns?

We use certified burn mangers and follow all federal and state regulations including providing the public with notices. It is important to let the public and our neighboring communities know that we will be conducting burns during Florida’s dry season.  Our goal is to commence the burns during the week of February 4th through the beginning of June 2019.  Burns will only take place during appropriate weather conditions. 

Please note that all appropriate fire safety officials in the area are notified about the prescribed burns and support our efforts.


How big are the flames?

It is important to note that our goal is to keep the flames as low as possible in an effort to protect the natural systems. Flames are usually no higher than six inches off the ground.

The certified burn experts are so specific they can even tell us how much they are going to burn and the direction the fire will take.  We also use firebreaks to ensure that fires stay under control and don’t cross into other areas. Please note that you may see smoke in the area during times of an active burn. 


What is a firebreak?

A firebreak is a gap in vegetation or other combustible material that acts as a barrier to slow or stop the progress of a prescribed fire.


What happens to animals during a burn?

Because we only burn small areas at a time, animals instinctively know to leave the area. All of our efforts are done with the safety and well-being of all the animals in mind.


What is your goal? How big an area will you burn?

Our goal is to burn 1,600 acres in small segments over several weeks. Again, the duration will depend on weather conditions.


When will the burns take place?

Burns will take place during daylight hours typically between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m.


Why are you doing this now?

As we enter Florida’s dry season we have a set window of time to conduct prescribed burns based on appropriate weather conditions.


Which regulatory agencies regulate this process?

The US Fish and Wildlife Service, an agency within the US Department of the Interior, the Florida Division of Forestry and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.