Sanibel task force announces prescribed burns for year
The Sanibel Prescribed Fire Task Force recently outlined its plan for this year’s prescribed burn operations, with the earliest one tentatively set for this week if the conditions were right.
On Feb. 8, representatives with the National Park Service, Florida Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, as well as Sanibel’s Natural Resources Department, police and fire, announced the plan’s details at a public meeting.
The targeted lands for 2019 include Legion Curve, the Sanibel-Captiva Road parcel, Sanibel Gardens Preserve, Frannie’s/Johnston Tract and North Center Tract, now called the Erick Lindblad Preserve.
During the meeting, held at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel, officials reported that a prescribed burn of the top priority, Legion Curve, could start as early as Feb. 12.
“We don’t burn every year,” refuge biologist Jeremy Conrad said of the targeted lands.
He explained that prescribed burns help to reduce hazardous fuels in order to minimize the threat of catastrophic wildfire and maintain public safety. They also help restore natural habitat for wildlife.
Prescribed burns mimic the natural process and help to maintain local habitats.
Greg Suszek, zone prescribed fire specialist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, discussed Legion Curve and San-Cap Road. He noted that Legion Curve has not been burned for about three years.
“This is our priority burn,” Susek said. “We want to try and restore that habitat.”
As of last week, the weather and conditions were looking favorable for the burn.
“I’m mainly looking for south winds,” he said, explaining that the winds will then push the smoke from the burning vegetation north, away from homes and infrastructure. “So limited impact to the public.”
For San-Cap Road, the land is larger in size but the entire property is not a target.
“We’ll be looking at smaller pockets (within the parcel),” Suszek said.
Holly Milbrandt, deputy director of the city’s Natural Resources Department, spoke about the remaining lands on this year’s list. She explained that each of the three locations has gone without a prescribed burn for a number of years and only portions of each of the properties are targeted.
Milbrandt noted that Legion Curve and San-Cap Road are the main priorities, however.
“Then we’ll look at windows of opportunity for those other lands,” she said.
The public will be notified in advance of a prescribed burn.
Nearby residents are strongly encouraged to “fire-wise” their homes.
Recommended tips for a prescribed burn include:
n Putting away personal property, such as cars and outdoor furniture
n Closing windows and using air conditioning
n Covering swimming pools
n Keeping pets indoors
n Staying indoors to minimize impacts or leaving the island for the day
Those who are sensitive to smoke can be placed on an email list.
Conservation Officer Joel Caouette, with Sanibel’s Natural Resources Department, maintains the list and sends out an email blast about 48 hours ahead of a prescribed burn with all of the information.
To be placed on the list, contact him at 239-472-3700 or Joel.email@example.com.
For more information, call Supervisory Refuge Ranger Toni Westland at 239-940-0169.