Celebrate Fire’s Role in Florida’s Eco-System

Earth Day is great day to recognize the importance of fire in Florida’s ecosystem. Fire shaped Florida’s landscape long before homes, roads, canals and bridges. Lightning set numerous fires that burned regularly through forest and grasslands. Plants and animals developed adaptations to these good fires that cleared underbrush and prevent the buildup of dense vegetation that now regularly fuels large-scale, catastrophic wildfires across the state.  As development spread and people suppressed natural fire, the lack of frequent burns led to fire famine that hurt habitats and created intense wildfires that threatened homes.

“It doesn’t have to be Earth Day for me to think about how I can make an impact (or less of an impact) on our planet”, said Melissa Yunas, Florida Forest Service Wildfire Mitigation Specialist.

Here are a few of her Earth Day tips:

  • Teach kids about fire in Florida’s eco-system: Take your kids to a State Park/Forest and learn about Florida’s eco-system. Did you know that fire is vital to certain types of plants and animals? Fire is a natural cleansing element in the forest. Around our house, we use leaf blowers and rakes to remove the dead vegetation. Fire naturally cleansing the forest floor of the dead overgrown vegetation while enriching soil benefiting germination. Love nature watching? After a prescribed fire, all the animals are foraging for weeks as the green vegetation grows from the ash enriched soil.  Learn more about good fires at www.goodfires.org.
  • Buy locally. The State of Florida is so unique to have fresh produce; support your local farmers’ markets and family farms. Did you know that your local farmers, ranchers, citrus and sugar cane growers use fire as a part of their land management plan? Fire plays an important role in the agriculture industry because fire can enrich the soil with nutrients and reduce the need for chemical pesticides. The Florida Forest Service administers nearly two million burning authorizations state-wide.
  • Landscape with native less-flammable plants. When a forest becomes to wild a purging fire is inevitable and natural. Homeowner’s who live near nature can be at risk for wildfire danger therefore recognize the highly flammable plants. Also replace highly flammable plants with low-flammable plants. Another tips is to water vegetation near your home regularly (within regulations) to ensure that they are healthy and green especially during dry season. For a list of low-flammability vegetation for your area, contact your local Florida Forest Service.

For more information contact your local Florida Forest Service office (Vero Beach 772-778-5085; Port St. Lucie 772-468-3915; Stuart 772-221-4045; Okeechobee 863-462-5160; Sebring 863-655-6407; Palmdale 863-674-4000). Please visit our website at www.floridaforestservice.com/wildfire

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