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Florida

Florida

South Florida Prescribed Burn Helps Stop Wildfire from Spreading

Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge - 2004

A prescribed burn conducted in June 2004 on 7,000 acres of the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge has been credited with halting the spread of a 4,000-acre wildfire ignited by lightening later in the summer.

Only 80 acres of the 147,392-acre refuge, located in Palm Beach County , Florida , were burned by the wildfire. The refuge area that burned is part of the northern Everglades, and contains slough habitat that is home to more than 257 bird species, including the endangered Everglades snail kite and wood stork.

Jeffrey Schardt, the incident commander for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, helped respond to the wildfire. When the fire advanced to the area where the prescribed burn took place, it fizzled out. The wildfire started in a state water conservation area south of the refuge and burned parts of the refuge's levees, stopping a half-mile short of the refuge's pump station.

"If the prescribed burn had not been in that location, the wildfire had the potential to travel through the entire refuge,"said Schardt.

Refuge Manager Mark Musaus said he plans on prescribing fire on 10,000 to 15,000 acres of the refuge in 2005 to control invasive weeds.

"Prescribed burns have many benefits," said Musaus. "A properly managed fire is a tool for removing flammable vegetation, creating openings and lush new vegetation, which reduces what can be ignited by lightening or advancing wildfire."

Prescribed fire is a tool often used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Since October 2003, the Service's Southeast Region has performed 324 prescribed burns on 130,670 acres of Service lands.

Employees from the Service's Southeast Regional Fire Management Branch as well as six Florida refuges and one fish hatchery participated in the prescribed burn.

Fire managers at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Florida use a specially designed ignition device to start a prescribed burn in this northern Everglades ecosystem, protecting human communities from subsequent wildfire. The equipment ignites with propane, leaving no petroleum residue to adversely affected water quality and wildlife habitat. (USFWS)

Fire managers at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Florida use a specially designed ignition device to start a prescribed burn in this northern Everglades ecosystem, protecting human communities from subsequent wildfire. The equipment ignites with propane, leaving no petroleum residue to adversely affected water quality and wildlife habitat. (USFWS)

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