Prescribed Fire at Fakahatchee Strand Preserve

Two people monitor a prescribed fire at Fakahatchee Strand Preserve.

Prescribed fire is a vital tool for managing the natural environment at Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park.

Prescribed burning is the practice of intentionally setting fire to an area for habitat management and restoration. It’s a safe way to apply a natural process, ensure ecosystem health and reduce wildfire risk. Burning is done in ideal weather conditions and greatly reduces the intensity of natural wildfires during the summer.

On the western edge of the Everglades, Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park is home to one of the largest prescribed fire programs in the Florida State Parks system.

The park is home to many plant communities, from uplands such as pine flatwoods to cypress swamp. With over half the park being cypress swamp, about 24,000 acres are fire-dependent plant communities. To be a healthy ecosystem, these plant communities need to be burned on rotation from one to three years or two to four years, depending on the plant community.

Many species of animals and wildflowers need a healthy plant community to thrive. Burning under prescribed fire conditions allows us to burn under ideal weather conditions to target specific goals. Frequent prescribed fire also allows for less intense wildfires by removing hazardous fuel loads, thus giving wildfires less fuel to burn. 

In 2022, park staff and partners conducted eight successful burns. These burns were planned and led by Steven Bass, who is the park's burn boss and park services specialist. Steven leads an amazing team of burners from Fakahatchee Strand Preserve and other nearby parks.

Each burn zone has specific goals. One of these goals is removal of hazardous fuels loads. The burn boss conducts a slow-moving prescribed fire, which removes combustible plant matter but leaves some unburned fuel behind. This creates an ideal habitat for white-tailed deer and a federally threatened bird, the black rail. 

As you travel through Fakahatchee Strand Preserve, slow down and check out the freshly burned zones. You may see white-tailed deer, black bear, turkey, birds or even possibly a Florida panther.