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Task force to conduct burn meeting

By Staff | Mar 3, 2020


The Sanibel Prescribed Fire Task Force’s annual informational meeting for the public will take place on March 5 at 1 p.m. at the J.N “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge’s Visitor & Education Center.

This spring-summer, prescribed burns are planned on the following conservation lands:

– Erick A. Lindblad Preserve

– Frannie’s/C.R. Johnston Preserves

– Sanibel Gardens Preserve

At the meeting, the task force will discuss the plan and address questions and concerns.

“So they’re well informed about what our plans are for the coming ‘burn season,'” Environmental Specialist Joel Caouette, with the city of Sanibel’s Natural Resources Department, said of the public.

He explained that attendees will learn why prescribed burns are conducted, such as to reduce combustable natural fuel like woody vegetation and provide for habitat management. Prescribed burns mimic the natural occurrence of wildfires – started by lightning or such – that do the same.

“So it’s easier to manage the lands and reduce the risk of unplanned wildfires,” Caouette said.

The task force is made up of several partners, including the city, Sanibel Fire and Rescue District, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the refuge.

“When we have these planned prescribed burns, most of these entities are present so that we’re prepared and will hopefully have a smooth burn,” he said.

Smoke sensitive individuals can register with the city to be placed on a list by contacting Caouette at 239-472-3700. Once registered, individuals will be notified in advance of any prescribed burn.

“We maintain the smoke sensitive list so that people have ample time to prepare their day or days in anticipation of these burns,” he said.

The public is encouraged to attend the meeting.

“There may be some misconceptions about prescribed burns,” Caouette said. “Folks can attend and we can clear up any misconceptions, and they’ll be able to ask questions directly to the burn managers.”

The city reported in a statement:

When forecasted conditions are favorable, the task force will issue further notification that a prescribed burn is imminent and identify the specific location of the burn. All fires must be authorized by the Florida Forest Service on the morning of the scheduled burn. A change in the forecast conditions may result in cancellation of the planned burn. A prescribed fire will not be conducted if the prescription conditions cannot be met prior to ignition.

A burn plan, or “prescription,” has been established for the priority areas within the conservation lands. The prescription details the required conditions that must exist in order for a prescribed burn to take place. These include environmental conditions such as soil moisture, fuel conditions and recent rainfall, as well as forecasted and actual weather conditions including temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and wind direction. Following a predefined prescription allows fire management officers to establish the desired fire behavior – intensity, flame length, direction of fire spread and smoke. The prescription also identifies the number of qualified fire personnel needed to conduct the burn, as well as the types and number of equipment required to safely complete the burn.

Depending on wind direction and strength, it may be possible to see or smell smoke on the day of a prescribed burn. The fire prescription identifies the specific wind conditions necessary to achieve the burn objectives, while minimizing smoke impacts to roads and communities. However, smoke and ash associated with a burn cannot be prevented. Smoke sensitive individuals should keep their windows closed and avoid outdoor activities in the affected areas.

During a prescribed burn operation, residents and visitors are encouraged to:

– Close windows.

– Cover pools.

– Move cars and furniture indoors.

– Stay indoors to minimize the impacts from smoke.

– Visit other areas of the Island away from the burn site.

– Abide by all signs, road closures, and instructions about closed areas provided by law enforcement and fire personnel.

After the prescribed burn has been completed, there may be occasional smoke or burning embers seen from the burned area for several days. Fire personnel will monitor the area and adjacent roads – day and night – taking all precautions and maintaining readiness to minimize fire activity and smoke impacts to the public. Do not be alarmed if you see smoke or burning embers within a burned area.

To reduce the risk of wildfire around your home and to help ensure the safety of your home during a prescribed burn, the task force recommends that you:

– Trim dead palm fronds from trees.

– Trim tall grasses near the home.

– Prune large, leafy hardwood trees so the lowest branches are six to ten feet above the ground.

– Do not store combustible materials such as gasoline containers, firewood, and building supplies under or around the home.

– Keep mulch and other landscaping material well watered.

For more information, call the Sanibel Natural Resources Department at 239-472-3700.

The J.N “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is at 1 Wildlife Drive, Sanibel.