St. Johns District conducts more than 5,000-acre prescribed burn in Fellsmere


FELLSMERE — Residents and motorists traveling along County Road 512 likely saw and smelled smoke columns from a prescribed burn – more than 5,000 acres – that happened Wednesday. But no need to fret – the smoke did not reach the roadways.

The controlled burn – which lessens the risk of uncontrollable wildfires – scorched off wetlands, grasses and palmettos at the Fellsmere Water Management Area, officials said.

SJRWMD Fire Team conducts a prescribed burn Wednesday Aug. 23, 2023, at the Fellsmere Water Management Area. PHOTO PROVIDED BY ST. JOHNS RIVER WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICT

The St. Johns River Water Management District Fire Team conducted the 5,183-acre burn. Ignition began about 11 a.m. and ended about 4 p.m., with the smoke expected to linger, officials said.

“Staff will be on site to monitor until it is finished smoking,” Media Outreach Manager Ashley Evitt said. “With the northeast winds today, the smoke should not reach County Road 512 or Interstate 95.”

The St. Johns Fire Team is made up of more than 30 District Land Resources staff. The team undergoes extensive training – certified by the Florida Forest Service – to understand fire dynamics and techniques to manage the burn appropriately for each situation, Evitt said.

The controlled fires destroy fuels that naturally accumulate overtime and help to manage the growth of woody shrubs. The burns also restore environments and cycle nutrients.

The district always checks that wind and weather conditions are suitable for managing the flames and that the smoke has little impact on residents and traffic, officials said.

“Periodic prescribed fires on District lands enhance the land’s environmental quality and protect its neighbors from destructive wildfires, but not without the possibility of temporary nuisances, such as smoke and ash,” officials said.

For more information on prescribed burns, visit the St. John’s District website.

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