Class shows right way to control burns

Published: Friday, January 23, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 22, 2009 at 11:24 p.m.

AUSTIN CAREY FOREST - A couple of years ago, John and Emelia Corrigan took a Firewise class, learning how to put out fires in their small, private forest. This week, the Old Town couple took an opposite course, learning to set fires in their forest.

"I guess it does sound kind of funny - learning how to set fires," said John Corrigan, "but we want to do it right, to do it safely."

The Corrigans were among 20 landowners who spent a day at the University of Florida's Austin Carey Memorial Forest learning how and when to use prescribed burns on their land.

The forestry stewardship workshop was a joint effort of the Florida Division of Forestry and UF's School of Forest Resources.

Some property owners have small forests, like the Corrigans' 25 acres, while others, like Billy Robinson, are managing 190 acres of pine trees. Regardless of size, the same principles apply, said Alan Long, the UF professor leading the workshop.

Long said many forest floors in Florida need a prescribed burn every two to three years to clear out dead and overgrown underbrush. Without prescribed burns, the natural litter on a forest floor can become a big fuel supply for an uncontrolled wildlife to feed on, Long said.

The Division of Forestry's operations administrator for the Gainesville district, Gary Beauchamp, worked individually with some of the workshop participants who wanted to learn how to determine the moisture content of the forest floor on their property.

Beauchamp advised them to gather a small bundle of pine needles and try to bend them into a U-shape. If the needles broke instead of bending they were likely to burn quickly, which is desirable for prescribed burns.

Long said forestry steward workshops are offered in various places around the state.

Anyone interested in participating in future programs must be enrolled in a Florida tree farm or other forest program.

For information on how to enroll, contact the county forester in the county where the trees are being grown.

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