Prescribed burn today at Sunnyhill Restoration Area in Marion County

Helicopter igniting prescribed fire in a marsh

Aerial ignition (as pictured from a previous prescribed burn in the Upper St. Johns River Basin Project) allows staff to burn more acres in a shorter period of time.

Helicopter igniting prescribed fire in a marsh

Aerial ignition (as pictured from a previous prescribed burn in the Upper St. Johns River Basin Project) allows staff to burn more acres in a shorter period of time.

PALATKA, Fla., Feb. 25, 2019 — The St. Johns River Water Management District is conducting a 950-acre prescribed burn at the Sunnyhill Restoration Area in Marion County, near the northern half of the levee trail and the west side of the red loop, along the Ocklawaha River. The purpose of the burn is to maintain fire-dependent wetland communities and enhance marsh restoration project sites within the former muck farms.

Fires were 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 managing the fire and minimizing the impacts of smoke to residents and traffic.