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Prescribed burns have increased over last 20 years

Posted at 5:22 AM, Apr 11, 2017

Florida Forests have adapted and grown to be fire dependent; the animals living in them have too.

Kawika Bailey, with the Florida Forest Service in Lakeland says subdivisions, roads and overall infrastructure has changed the natural fire cycle in the state. Centuries ago, a fire would naturally occur every 2 to 3 years, burn for a few weeks and then naturally die out.

"What we're seeing now is areas that haven't been burned in decades and those are much higher and the result of those fires are more catastrophic than they have been if they were naturally occurring," said Bailey.

That's why controlled burns are crucial. Over the last 20 years, the number of controlled burns in the state has steadily increased. In 2016, there were more than 204,000. They are paid for by state and federal funds - but there is no specific budget for controlled fires.

Officials have to weigh whether a prescribed burn is safe for crews and the people in the area. Prescribed burning can be difficult in areas surrounded by homes, near large highways, or in marshy areas. When they can do them - they save money and homes.

If you think your community needs a controlled burn you can call the Florida Forest Service in your area - for Lakeland that number is 863-940-6701. Officials will come to your area and determine the fire danger plus put in a pre suppression line. And if the land is able, they can do a controlled burn before a wildfire hits.