Prescribed Fire at Florida State Parks

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What is Prescribed Fire?

A view of a fire expert applying a controlled burn.

Prescribed fire is a safe way to apply a natural process, ensure ecosystem health and reduce wildfire risk. Fire plays a significant role in the environment. Prescribed fire, also referred to prescribed burn or controlled burn, is fire applied in a competent manner by a team of fire experts under specified weather conditions to help restore health to ecosystems that depend on fire. Prescribed fire reduces the likelihood of wildfires and is a cost-effective tool that land managers use to restore our natural plant and wildlife communities.

Why is Prescribed Fire Needed?

Florida is the lightning capital of the United States. Long before humans inhabited Florida, wildfires caused by lightning spread naturally, often fueled by the wind. The plants and animals of Florida adapted to these fires, and today, many species are greatly dependent on fire for survival. Today, wildfires are seen as a threat and are typically extinguished.

Prescribed fires are a safer means to protect lands and surrounding communities by:

A photo explaining how prescribed burning helps our natural communities in Florida. The first one says "Safely reducing excessive amounts of plant life." Next it says "Encouraging the new growth of native vegetation." And the last point says "Maintaining animal and plant species whose habitats depend on periodic fire."

In addition to these benefits to the ecosystem, well-managed land provides all of us with beautiful areas where we can enjoy wildlife and scenery. Prescribed fire improves recreational opportunities and helps maintain a balance in our ecosystems.

Fire Statistics and Successes

In Fiscal Year 2022-23, the Florida Park Service accomplished 74,202 acres treated by fire. Of that number, 72,739 acres were prescribed fire and 1,463 acres were unplanned ignition (wildfire).

In 1971, the first prescribed fire was conducted at Falling Waters State Park in Florida’s Panhandle. In 2021, the Florida Park Service marks the 50th year of using prescribed fire as a tool to manage natural ecosystems.