- Science & Data
- Environmental Science
- Fire: Friend or Foe?
Fire: Friend or Foe?
The History of Fire in Florida
As Florida plant communities developed, they became well adapted to fire. During the summer lightning ignited low-intensity fires that burned slowly across the natural landscape, unimpeded by roads, farms and cities. These fires kept fuel levels low, maintained an open landscape, and helped reinforce the dominance of fire-adapted plants and animals. Native Americans and European settlers understood the renewing effects of fire and burned Florida's forests frequently. They were rewarded with nutritious plant regrowth for game and cattle, and with forests safe from high-intensity wildfires.
However, over time attitudes have changed and fire is no longer seen as a friend. The resultant decades of fire-suppression led to the present condition of degraded plant communities and dangerous buildups of forest fuels. Destructive wildfires that periodically rage over parts of Florida are a direct result of these changes.
District land managers recognize the benefits of fire on the landscape and frequently use prescribed burning as a tool to mimic natural lightning fire and restore and maintain Florida's plant communities. Florida Certified Prescribed Burn Managers choose the best wind, temperature, and moisture conditions to reap the benefits of natural fire, while minimizing the risk of wildfire or smoke blowing into urban areas. The District conducts prescribed burns during most months of the year. This activity may produce smoke or other temporary conditions that are unpleasant or unsafe for recreational users.
The public is generally advised to avoid tracts where burning is underway. Location and timing of prescribed burns may change on short notice due to weather or site conditions.
For further information and burn locations, please email Scott Gregor, Prescribed Burn Project Manager, or call 386-362-1001 or 800-226-1066 (in Florida). Notices are also posted on the Recreation page.