Prescribed Fire

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Over the past 10 years Merritt Island NWR has implemented over 170 prescribed fire treatments and has averaged approximately 12,634 acres per year in prescribed fire acres.


Merritt Island conducts prescribed burns to (1) reduce hazardous fuel loads around Kennedy Space Center infrastructure and surrounding communities (therefore reducing the likelihood of a catastrophic wildfire); (2) improve or restore wildlife habitat for many endangered and threatened species.

Additional benefits to conducting prescribed burns are the cost benefits for implementing prescribed burns vs the cost of battling wildfires. In May 2012 a report was written on the cost savings that occurred on the Refuge during wildfire suppression due to previous prescribed fire treatments, as well as having weather conditions that are more favorable for smoke impacts to smoke sensitive facilities at Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and safer fire conditions for firefighters.

Before any prescribed fire is started the refuge fire management staff, under guidance from the Fire Management Officer or Prescribed Fire Specialist, carefully considers many factors to ensure the burn will safely meet all management objectives. Weather forecasts, humidity levels, predicted wind speed and direction, fuel types, time since the last burn, and topography are all very important factors of preparing for any prescribed burn. All fire-trained / “red card” qualified firefighters who will assist with the fire attend a pre-burn safety briefing to discuss all aspects of the planned fire and identify what will be done in case the fire burns outside the controlled area or perhaps is not meeting habitat objectives. A small test burn within the unit allows for a field litmus test to make the final determination of whether the burn is a “go or no-go”.