Fire in the Florida wildlands is as natural and vital to plants and animals as the summer rainy season. These ﬁres ensure continued diversity of wildlife and native vegetation. Many animals depend on ﬁre to thin out dense woods, and many native plants need ﬁre as part of their lifecycles.
Unchecked wildﬁres present signiﬁcant danger to people and property. The danger has increased dramatically as people build in heavily wooded areas without taking steps to properly landscape and secure their properties.
Seventy percent of wildﬁres are caused, accidentally or intentionally, by people. The other 30 percent are caused by lightning. Florida has a year-round wildﬁre season, but ﬁre activity peaks in Southwest Florida from January-June.
Wildﬁre safety is everyone's responsibility.
The Caloosahatchee Forestry Center conducts prescribed burns or cuts, grinds and chops vegetation which simulates prescribed burning near homes, reducing danger in high wildﬁre risk areas.
Prescribed ﬁre is quick, eﬃcient, and best simulates the natural role of ﬁre in Florida. Burning often requires months to plan and ensure control and safety. Rangers take extra precautions to limit problems caused by smoke from these ﬁres.
Roller chopping uses a bulldozer to pull a metal drum with protruding blades that knocks down and cuts up vegetation. Rangers work carefully around trees, and the work is essential in areas where vegetation has grown to dangerous heights and prescribed burns are impractical.
Mulching and grinding uses machines with toothed, rotating drums that grind vegetation. The machines create a layer of mulch that decomposes. The process allows rangers to work closer to homes, and these areas quickly grow back.
The Center aggressively works to reduce wildﬁre risk in the community, but these eﬀorts are only eﬀective with the help of residents who properly maintain their properties.
Florida residents often choose to live in areas prone to wildﬁres. They must take responsibility to lower their wildﬁre risk.
Structures should have an area of at least 30 feet around them that is clean, green and free of dead vegetation. This area is known as defensible space.
Tips to make a home safer from wildﬁre:
- Keep tree branches trimmed away from roofs and gutters.
- Remove dead vegetation from around the home.
- Plant less ﬂammable, ornamental vegetation next to structures and use chunky mulch or gravel.
- Maintain a working irrigation system around structures and use it according to local water restrictions.
- Cover eaves and other openings with wire mesh no larger than 1/8th of an inch.
- Keep combustible items away from structures.
- Overgrown vegetation around boats, ATVs, and sheds is just as dangerous as vegetation near homes.
- Build homes with ﬁre-resistant materials.
- Keep driveways at least 12 feet wide and free of overhanging branches and overgrown plants that may hinder emergency response.
Be prepared when wildﬁres threaten the community.
- Create an evacuation plan and make sure all family members know and understand it.
- Follow the directions of emergency personnel and evacuate immediately if requested.
- Have important documents and other items, such as medication, readily available.
- Plan for pets.
If time allows:
- Remove lightweight curtains that might ignite from the radiant heat of wildﬁres.
- Move ﬂammable furniture away from windows and glass doors.
- Turn oﬀ the power and disconnect fuel supplies.