Final-Fire Management of Florida and the Everglades

This discussion topic submitted by Glen White ( at 5:31 pm on 7/21/99. Additions were last made on Wednesday, May 7, 2014.

Fire Management in the Everglades

´Dedicated in 1947
´1950Ýs marked the beginning of fire management efforts aimed at controlling existing fires.
´Fires help shape the Everglades but too much can destroy it.

--Background on Prescribed Fires
´1958, a study was performed to determine the role of fires in the Everglades.
´The study concluded that, to preserve certain ecosystems, fire management was needed.
´1958 represented the first ever-prescribed fire in a national park.

´"To reintroduce fire in a controlled manner to minimize damaging effects and perpetuate the fire-adapted pine forest community of the park. To maintain its biological diversity, fire is a necessary part of the Everglades national park."

Fire: An Ecosystem Management Tool

´Management-Ignited Prescribed Fire
´Fires started by trained personnel to reduce accumulated plant debris, control exotic plants, maintain habitat for natural species, and the different classes of plant communities across the landscapeÍinitiated only if fires can be contained to predetermined areas.

Prescribed Natural Fires
´Fires started by lightning that are managed in a remote area within the park.
vFire management personnel closely monitor the weather, vege3tation, soil moisture, and water levels to allow for a safe, normal, burn.

Effects of Fires on the EvergladesÝ Ecosystem

´Pines and many other plants thrive in sunny areas of the Everglades. Fires destroy hammock species that would otherwise take over with their dense canopies.

´Mangroves outline the West Coast of the Everglades with coastal prairies intertwined within them. Fires usually start in the prairies and are permitted to burn because there is no threat to human life.

´Hammocks provide self-preservation around the parameter in the form of a moat-like depression created by eroded limestone.
´Humidity and high levels of moisture in the soil also provide self preservation.

Various Uses & Classifications of Management Equipment

´Classified according to size and capability. "Hummers" are frequently used and are classified as a "Type 6 Wildland Fire Engine."

´Used to ignite fires
´April 1997Í Helicopters ignited prescribed fires using a machine mounted in the helicopter that drops Ping-Pong sized balls that ignite once they hit the ground through a chemical reaction.

--Other Measures
´Vast amounts of wilderness enable natural fires to burn without interaction from Everglade Fire Management Personnel. For instance, in August 1997, 1000 acres burned within a three-day period.

Some Considerations

´Smoke is always a management consideration and can be minimized, however it may limit visibility on roads and threaten public safety if weather conditions change.

Why Is Fire A Good Thing?

´Without managed fires, diversity would face extinction.
´Fires give plants nutrients where previously unavailable thus promoting new growth and improving wildlife and habitat.
´Fire is an integral part of the Everglades and is considered to be an ally rather than an enemy.

Recent Fires In Florida and The Everglades National Park

--April 14, 1999
´Since January 1999, 22,081 wildfires have occurred, many of which were set by carelessness.
´Cigarette smokers throw their butts out the window (Florida turnpike effected mostly).

--April 16, 1999 (Port ST. Lucie)
´More than two dozen homes went up into flames. And fire got closer to 200 more, heading in three directions, covering 1,500 acres by dusk.
´Officials expected to put fires out by Wednesday but the fire whipped back up into full strength with the help of gusty winds.
´In the process, firefighters drew water from canals already depleted by a drought that left Florida in a state of emergency.
´Two fires scorched Osceola County.
´Winds also caused evacuations of residents in Polk County and Collier County.
AprilÝs drought made conditions ripe for a repeat of 1998Ýs fires that cooked 500,000 acres.

--April 19, 1999 (Miami Everglades)
´90,000 acres of sawgrass burnt. Winds aided fires in FT. LauderdaleÝs suburbs.
´Fires even jumped I-75Í
´Fires may have been started by a catalytic converter on a vehicle traveling on U.S. 27.
´Environmentalists not very concerned with Everglade fires because they feel fires are needed to clear decaying undergrowth and make way for new growth.

--April 20, 1999 (Fort Lauderdale)
´Since the previous weekend, 155,000 acres of sawgrass consumed and 15,000 more were predicted.
´Ninety percent burned out and one hundred percent contained.
´Posed no danger to Miccosukee Indians

--Miami Florida
´Firefighters had hoped that the Miami canal would serve as a barrier, but the blaze jumped the canal and was heading for the Miccosukee Indians.
´Firefighters set controlled blazes to help contain Everglades flames.
´Caused dark skies to appear over Miami and Fort Lauderdale.
´Fire began in the Eastern Everglades.
´Largest of the 2,515 fires in Florida this year

--In FloridaÝs Favor
´Heat produced less vegetation to fuel fires.
´Wetter summer than previous year.
´Cold Pacific = fires in spring
´Warm Pacific = rain in winter


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