Reducing Wildfire Risk

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Melissa Yunas

March 1, 2018

(772) 260-0053

Twitter: @FFS_Okeechobee

Reducing Wildfire Risk on Lake Okeechobee

Moore Haven, FL– The Florida Forest Service in collaboration with South Florida Water Management District, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be conducting a prescribed burn on Friday, March 2, 2018, weather permitting. The prescribed burn will consist of approximately 7,000 acres of dried-out marsh on the rim of Lake Okeechobee between the Indian Prairie Canal north to the Pearce Canal. Access to the navigational trails through the marsh, may be limited temporarily during the burn for safety reasons.

“Prescribed burns play a critical role in enhancing the safety and effectiveness of wildfire response, reducing wildfire risk, and safeguarding people and property,” explained Forest Area Supervisor Joe deBree, Florida Forest Service. “In 2017, firefighters responded to seven wildfires on Lake Okeechobee that burned approximately 2,400 acres. Wildfires like these have the potential to threaten homes and lives, impede visibility on the highways and tie-up firefighting resources. However, under the right weather parameters with adequate equipment and resources, Friday’s organized prescribed burn can protect the public’s safety while improving ecosystem health.”

Prescribed burning around the shallow-water portions of Lake Okeechobee can improve the breeding and feeding grounds for fish, waterfowl, wading birds, the Everglades snail kite, and other wildlife populations. Fire removes the dead aquatic vegetation that would otherwise settle to the bottom of the lake and decompose, covering up the natural sandy bottom, making it difficult for new aquatic plants to grow. In addition, fire enables more sunlight to reach the lake bottom, allowing the spread of a more diverse mix of plants on the lake by thinning out fast-spreading cattails that block sunlight.

In order to minimize the smoke impact on nearby towns and roads, prescribed burns are conducted when weather conditions are suitable. The final decision to burn is made daily, after reviewing the Predicted Fire Weather Forecast.

The Florida Forest Service, a division of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, manages more than 1 million acres of state forests, provides management assistance on more than 17 million acres of private and community forests, while protecting homes, forestland, and natural resources from the devastating effects of wildfire on more than 26 million acres. Learn more at FloridaForestService.com.

For questions about burn authorizations and wildfire prevention, please contact your local Florida Forest Service:

Martin County (772) 221-4045; Saint Lucie County (772) 468-3915; Indian River County (772) 778-5085;

Glades County (863) 674-4000; Highlands County (863) 655-6407; Okeechobee County (863) 467-3221

Melissa Yunas

Wildfire Mitigation Specialist

Serving Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River, Okeechobee, Highlands and Glades Counties.

Florida Forest Service, Okeechobee District

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

FFS_Okeechobee

(772) 467-3008 office line

(772) 260-0053 cell phone Melissa.Yunas@FreshFromFlorida.com

Saint Lucie Forestry Site 5520 Peacock Road

Port Saint Lucie, Florida 34987 www.FloridaForestService.com Please note that Florida has a broad public records law (Chapter 119, Florida Statutes). Most written communications to or from state employees are public records obtainable by the public upon request. Emails sent to me at this email address may be considered public and will only be withheld from disclosure if deemed confidential pursuant to the laws of the State of Florida.

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