What’s that burning smell?

The flames will sometimes get up to 10 to 15 feet, but they will stay inside of the designated burn area.
Photo by Tiffany Felts

The flames will sometimes get up to 10 to 15 feet, but they will stay inside of the designated burn area. Photo by Tiffany Felts

Tiffany Felts

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Four men spent a good part of Feb. 20 setting fires in the Sawmill Slough Preserve.

These men were a team from Environmental Services, Inc., hired by UNF to supervise a controlled burn.

They create a fire line, clear out any excess flammable debris, control the fire, and take care of clean up.

Florida Fire Service approved the burn as a perscription burn for the ecosystem.

Charles Hubbach, the preserve curator, said the burns get rid of excessive amounts of pest plants, like Palmettos. Because these pest plants are removed, other species can grow.

Justin Lemmons, a UNF ecologist who works with Environmental services on the burns, said weather, fuel load, humidity, wind, and density of vegetation to take into consideration when planning burns.

“Ecologically speaking, it’s one of the few management practices we can do here in Florida. It’s really nice for the understory to re-grow.”

He said general safety precautions need to be taken. There is risk of spot fires, if things get out of control, and heavy smoke. Spot fires happen when the fire jumps out of the planned burn area.

Hubbach said these burns can be traced back to the Native Americans, who would perform them to keep the land diverse.

He said since fires occur naturally, these species of plants and wildlife in the pine lands are used to it, so it’s important to keep doing the burns every two to three years in controlled environments.

Lemmons sad there’s a spectrum of chaos, and environments that are exposed to a medium rage of it actually flourish.

Hubbach said he suspects that, because they did not start doing these burns in the preserve until 2008, the preserve has lost species of wildflowers.

He said his goal for the continuation of this practice is to restore the preserve to the way it would have been back in colonial times.

Email Tiffany Felts at [email protected]