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Large aerial prescribed burn could bring smoke to parts of the Tampa Bay area

Posted at 9:34 AM, Feb 13, 2020

The Florida Forest Service, Withlacoochee Forestry Center in conjunction with the Southwest Florida Water Management District is planning a large aerial prescribed burn for Thursday and Friday.

Officials have offered some precautions residents in the Tampa Bay area can take:

• Pay attention to news coverage and updates on the prescribed fire.
• Stay indoors if you have respiratory problems, close windows and bring pets indoors.
• If you encounter smoke on the road; reduce speed, increase following distance, turn your low-beam headlights on.

The prescribed fire could be between 4,000 acres to 8,000 acres per day over two days in the Richloam Tract of the Withlacoochee State Forest and Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve.

Officials say the time of aerial ignition will be between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

The prescribed fire will be adjacent to SR 471 from the Polk/Sumter County Line to 2 miles south of SR 50. Smoke from the large aerial burn may be visible from US 301 which is approximately 7 miles west of the planned burn and SR 33 which is approximately 13 miles to the east of this area. Implementation/Execution of this burn will be weather dependent.

During the burn, SR 471 will be closed between SR 50 and US 98/SR 700, except for local traffic. Traffic will be detoured to US 301.

The Florida Forest Service and Southwest Florida Water Management will be using prescribed fire to reduce or eliminate hazardous fuels that could lead to a catastrophic wildfire. Reducing hazardous fuels with the use of prescribed burning increases public safety from the damaging impacts from wildfires and the safety of wildland firefighters as they respond to suppress those wildfires