We are heading into that season when prescribed burns are common and the smell of smoke is in the air. Hey, it’s Florida’s version of the smell of burning leaves in autumn up north!! In all seriousness, prescribed burns are a necessary activity in our area to ensure that out-of-control forest fires (think California) do not encroach on our life and/or property and also to enrich and enhance the health of the habitat.
Imagine there were no people here and a naturally-occurring (lightening) fire started. The fire would start and then burn itself out but, in the process, enrich the soil and rid the land of the “fuel” that is on the forest floor (pine needles, brush, leaves, vegetative debris, etc.). This process would happen again and again. Over time, this cyclical burning and re-growth formed our natural Florida environment and our wildlife adapted and became dependent upon the maintenance that came with the fire. Our scrub areas, prairies, wetlands, and other natural areas needed this fire to exist and thrive.
Now, fast-forward to humans who put out fires. This means that the vegetative fuel collects in our natural areas, which also increases the chances of a serious forest fire. So, prescribed burns are a tool used to 1) burn up the vegetative fuel and, 2) maintain scrub areas so that they come back stronger and healthier due to the fire-enriched soil. Many of our wildlife species actually depend on the prescribed burn process for survival. There is a lot of great information out there on the benefits of prescribed burns – here is a link to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission page on burns: https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/habitat/prescribed-fire/ .
Here in Viera, we are actually required to burn approximately 1,000 acres per year under our development order and our Viera Wilderness Park Habitat Management Plan. So, during this time of year, residents may see prescribed burning fairly often – weather permitting. Also, there are many other areas of Brevard County that manage habitat through prescribed burning so Viera is not the only place you will see this happen. Try not to be alarmed when you see this happening. Although disconcerting at first, these fires are closely monitored and managed by skilled and certified professionals. Prescribed burns are also brief and slow-moving to allow wildlife to take shelter or move away from the burn.
Understanding that some people are sensitive to the smoke and/or ash that may be present on prescribed burning days, you might want to consider signing up for notifications of when this is happening so that you can plan your day indoors. You can do this in a couple of different ways. You can follow the Brevard County Emergency Management Department on Facebook or Twitter and receive notifications (along with their other notifications too). But, if you are not keen on social media, you can also register to receive notifications directly from the EOC to you. You can register here to receive emergency and non-emergency alerts: https://www.brevardfl.gov/EmergencyManagement/StayInformed/AlertSignUp (which, you should do anyway given Florida’s unpredictable weather!). Finally, if you just want to receive text messages, you can register by sending a text message to the EOC to register – text BREVARDEOC to 888777. Fair warning, they do send text messages for all EOC activity, so, I put the text notification on snooze on my phone and just look at the messages periodically.
So, until next time, please remember … “In order to rise from its own ashes, a Phoenix first must burn.” (Octavia Butler)
Eva M. Rey, President
Central Viera Community Association, Inc.