Controlled burn blows in smoke

Published: Sunday, January 10, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 10, 2010 at 12:13 a.m.

The smoke that blew into Alachua County and other parts of North Central Florida Saturday was from a controlled burn in the Osceola National Forest in Columbia and Baker counties and posed no danger, according to the Florida Division of Forestry.

Saturday's controlled burn was one of several in the Osceola and Ocala national forests recently that have alarmed some residents in affected areas, prompting them to call out local fire agencies unnecessarily.

More prescribed burning on woodlands can be expected because the cool, dry conditions are ideal for controlled burns, said Ludie Bond, a wildfire mitigation specialist with the Florida Division of Forestry.

"The last three days, Osceola has been burning some very large plots. The Ocala National Forest on Thursday burnt 1,600 acres," Bond said. "The challenge it presents is that when residents call 911 and complain about smoke, we have to respond when there is a concern."

Prescribed burning is typically done in the cooler months because vegetation is in a dormant stage. The burning rids forests of vegetation that can become fuel for uncontrolled burns. The burning also improves the ecological health of the land.

But the cold, dry weather also makes wild grass and brush fires more likely.

"It's confusing for the general public. What people need to know is that on a day-to-day basis, we are authorizing burns given the weather conditions and people who are doing it are experienced, certified burners," Bond said.

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