Prescribed burns protecting residents and the environment in Tampa Bay

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. - County officials take part in prescribed burns to try to protect citizens and the environment from wildfires.

Members of the Conservation and Environmental Lands Management department spent several hours at the Lower Green Swamp Nature Preserve Thursday.

“If we don’t do this, it’ll get overgrown, that’s an accumulation of fuels that becomes dangerous,” Andy Fairbanks, Environmental Outreach Coordinator, said.

He said it could create the right conditions for a wildfire to spark.

“We get probably maybe the highest lightning strikes in the world or so close to it in this area, and we get a lightning (strike) ignited fire in an area that’s overgrown, there’s much more potential for a wildfire. That’s harder for us to contain and put out,” Fairbanks said.

Besides trying to prevent wildfires, they conduct prescribed burns to restore the habitat. 

“Florida’s ecosystem actually has species that depend on fire and most are adapted to it as well,” Fairbanks said.

The department takes care of a total of 80,000 acres of land in the county and conservation parks. The department conducts prescribed burns as often as possible year round. The majority of them are done in the winter and the spring.

“After this area is burned, it won’t burn again for at least another year or two years, even if you tried to burn it. So, it’s reducing the wildfire risk,” Bill Carlisle, Prescribed Burn Coordinator, said.

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