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Refuge officials finish Botanical Site burn

By Staff | Apr 5, 2012

Fire personnel make sure the fire break adjacent to residential homes is secure. Photos provided by USFWS

The second prescribed burn of the Botanical Site at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge in 16 days was completed March 31 without incident.

“It was a huge success,” said Toni Westland, Supervisory Refuge Ranger. “We had the help of the Sanibel Police to close down the bike paths in the area.”

The latest prescribed burn involved the South Unit of the Botanical Site bordered by Rabbit Road, West Gulf Drive, Gulf Pines Subdivision and the Sanibel River. On March 15, the North Unit of the Botanical Site was burned. Both burns were incident free.

These controlled burns are intended to reduce the likelihood of catastrophic wildfires as well as help preserve the natural ecology of the area.

According to Westland, members of the Southern Florida and Caribbean Fire District of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Florida Forest Service, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, City of Sanibel and Sanibel Fire & Rescue were briefed at 9 a.m. and the first ignition took place at 10:30 a.m.

“There were 35 to 40 firefighters on site with a lot of the same crews that took part in the North Unit burn getting to work together again,” said Westland.

The fire was out by 5 p.m., but crews remained at the site throughout the night and several days after to guard against rekindling. Smoke lingered in the area through the weekend and was noticed by residents in Cape Coral.

There are no more prescribed burns planned in the Refuge this year. There were just two prescribed burns in the Refuge over the last 10 years, according to Westland. The last one was in 2008 on the Bailey Tract.