Prescribed fire today at Ocklawaha Prairie Restoration Area in Marion County

Wiregrass restoration at Ocklawaha Prairie Restoration Area

~River Road parking area, river campsite and associated trails are closed during the burn~

PALATKA, Fla., Feb. 7, 2018 — The St. Johns River Water Management District is conducting an 1,100-acre prescribed burn Wednesday at the Ocklawaha Prairie Restoration Area in Marion County, on the east side of the river, in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service, Ocala National Forest. The River Road parking lot and associated hiking trails and campsite on the river are closed to public access. The purpose is fuel reduction and to promote the amelioration of pyric dependent native species.

The fire was set by aerial ignition. Aerial ignition allows district staff to ignite fires more quickly, which results in faster burnout and less lingering smoke. Convection produced by igniting an area rapidly can help move the smoke up and away more quickly. Aerial ignition also allows staff to introduce fire into areas that may be inaccessible from the ground, ensuring that prescribed fire is introduced into even the most remote areas of the property. Aerial ignition allows staff to burn more acres in a shorter period of time, which in time will aid district staff in maintaining the fire frequency needed for the maintenance of the conservation area.

Prescribed fire is the use of carefully planned fire purposefully set under stringent conditions to control the fire’s effects. Its benefits include restoring and maintaining natural communities, reducing chances of destructive wildfires, perpetuating fire-adapted plants and animals, cycling nutrients, controlling tree diseases, and opening scenic vistas. Prescribed fires help prevent wildfires by burning off fuels that naturally build up over time, while also helping to control the growth of woody shrubs.

Before conducting a burn, the district ensures wind and other weather conditions are correct for controlling the fire and minimizing the impacts of smoke to residents and traffic.