Tame Flames: Controlled Burns In North Florida

May 7, 2015

With a hotter, drier summer fast approaching, the threat of wildfires is looming. But, not all fires are bad.

Credit Florida Forest Service

Controlled burns are exactly as they sound- a manageable, man-made forest fire that is closely monitored from spark to fizzle. In fact, Eric Staller, research manager of Tall Timbers Research Station says, the fires are eco-friendly.

“Well, we like to say that prescribed fire is a safe way to do three things: apply a natural process, ensure ecosystem health and reduce wildfire risk,” Staller said.

The fires rarely reach more than a foot tall. Staller says the local fauna is so used to them that they’ve adapted, and some are even casual around them.

“The snakes and rodents go underground, or climb trees. All the birds just fly up to the trees. I’ve seen deer and things like that walking in front of our fires. Our fires are relatively slow-moving,” Staller said.

While the fires may kill off the plants on the surface, they leave the roots, which allow them regrow fresh and new, not only promoting a healthy cycle, but also encouraging fauna to come in and eat the new saplings. Staller also says, having regular prescribed burns will make those areas more resilient to unintentional burns.

“We are getting into wildfire season, and places that have wildfires are places that prescribed fire is not being maintained on a frequent level,” Staller said.

But Staller maintains that there’s a huge difference between arson and controlled burns, with “controlled” being the key term.