Big plume of smoke was from controlled burn

Officials said the 300-acre fire was under control throughout the process.

Published: Saturday, January 29, 2011 at 3:19 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 29, 2011 at 11:02 p.m.

A 300-acre controlled burn on private land north of Micanopy and south of Paynes Prairie created a towering plume of smoke Saturday afternoon, but officials said the fire was under control throughout the process.

The prescribed burn, conducted by the owner of land off County Road 234 across from Oakridge Cemetery, was scheduled to be completed by Saturday evening, said Ludie Bond, wildlife mitigation specialist for the Florida Division of Forestry.

The plume of smoke that the fire created was imposing because of how the land owner conducted the burn and weather conditions, said Bond.

"The lighting technique that an individual uses to burn off their land in conjunction with the current weather conditions will dictate the amount of smoke and the smoke plume that is visible," Bond said Saturday.

On Friday, firefighters from several agencies were busy with uncontrolled burns whipped by gusty winds — including one that forced the closure of Interstate 75 near Alachua for about 15 minutes.

Firefighters expressed concern that people could be tempted to burn debris over the weekend and accidentally ignite more grass fires.

But on Saturday, the Division of Forestry had authorized dozens of burns throughout the region — including three in Alachua County — because the conditions made the day ideal for prescribed burning, Bond said.

The wind was a steady 4 mph from the west rather than the gusty conditions seen Friday.

Conditions also allowed for the smoke to easily disperse.

Bond said the controlled burning amid concerns over brush fires could confuse the public but added those doing the authorized burns were required to have equipment on hand to keep them controlled.

"Prescribed fire is something that is absolutely necessary to restore ecosystems that are vital to Florida. A lot of farmers do prescribed burning of their pastures," Bond said. "Most of the people that are asking for authorizations to burn like this are either professional, certified or experienced burners."

Bond added she was not aware of any uncontrolled fires on Saturday.

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