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Prescribed burns promote healthy growth on Sanibel

By Staff | Apr 30, 2015

Prescribed burns, such as this one on Sanibel, are well controlled by professionals. Provided by Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge

“Out with the old, in with the new.”

Prescribed burn season will officially get underway on Sanibel coming within the next month or so, depending on what the weather has to say about it.

It is the wind and weather conditions which will dictate the start of prescribed burns on the island, but when they do start, safety is first and foremost and will be conducted by a host of organizations to ensure just that.

The City of Sanibel will be working in conjunction with Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge, SCCF, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the Sanibel Fire and Police Department to make sure the burns go as planned.

But the joint task force will be at the beckoning of the weather conditions, which affect burn patterns.

The map where the expected prescribed burns will be on Sanibel. When forecasted conditions are favorable, the Sanibel Prescribed Fire Partnership will issue further notification a prescribed burn is possible and identify the specific location of the burn Provided by Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge

“Everything must be perfectly aligned, like wind and moisture,” said Ding Darling Supervisory Refuge Ranger Toni Westland at a public informational meeting at the Educational Center at the refuge Monday.

Prescribed burns on Sanibel are scheduled on a three-year cycle and this year’s will be done on the botanical site across from the Sanibel School and Rec Center.

There will be four different management areas burned. There will be a public information booth available before the prescribed burns are ignited, which will all depend on the weather conditions.

Officials also encourages anyone who maybe smoke sensitive, to close all windows and stay indoors during the high point of the burns, when the smoke is most prevalent.

“There is a good chance we will probably not be able to get the entire area done because of the weather conditions,” said Holly Milbrandt of the City of Sanibel Natural Resources Department. “We don’t intend to burn the entire area at one time or even in one year. It will be on a three to five-year cycle, so the island will not be on fire all at one time.”

Westland added the joint-task force will work well together to notify all the people who will be affected by the prescribed burns as soon as they know when the burns will take place.

“We’ll be putting up mailbox hangers and there will be notifications all around the island,” Westland added.

When the prescribed burns are scheduled, residents should put all personal items away, close windows, cover pools, keep pets indoors and stay indoors themselves. If anyone is smoke sensitive, they can call Jason Cull in the City’s Natural Resources Department at 239-472-3700.

Once registered, the City will notify individuals in advance of any prescribed burns on Sanibel.

“We will have a list of phone numbers and emails for smoke sensitive individuals and notify them when the burn will happen,” Milbrandt said.

During the burns, stay away from the area affected, as well.

After the prescribed burn is effectively done, there still maybe some smoldering embers, which will cause occasional smoke from the site for several days. Fire officials will monitor the area and adjacent roads 24 hours a day and take all precautions to make sure a fire does not expand and the smoke does not make an impact on daily life.

To reduce the risk of wildfire around one’s home, trim dead palm fronds from trees; trim tall grasses near the home; prune large, leafy hardwood trees so the lowest branches are six to 10 feet above the ground; do not store combustible materials under or around the home and keep mulch and other landscaping material well watered.

For more information regarding prescribed burns on Sanibel, contact the City of Sanibel Natural Resources Department at 239-472-3700.