Sometimes bigger is better…. Everglades National Park encompasses an ecosystem of over 1.5 million acres. Those acres, many of which are fire adapted, require treatment with fire on a 3-7 year return interval. To do this successfully we often have to think "big box". This week and next we are utilizing fire to reduce fuel loading and knock back exotic plant species across 100,000 acres of coastal prairie lands from Everglades City to Flamingo. Within days of burning we will start to see a healthier and more robust ecosystem bounce back.
The fire is burning between the Main Park Road and the Nike Missile Base.
The Long Pine Key Fire, which started on April 10, has burned about 4,709 acres in Everglades National Park in south Florida. It started near Long Pine Key Campground and with 20 mph winds quickly spread through pine rocklands and prairies south of the Main Park Road. It has threatened several park resources and structures and reduced visibility on roads.
A portion of the fire is burning in an area recently treated with a prescribed fire. The reduction in fuels benefits firefighters, making the fire easier to control.
As of April 12, the Main Park Road is open. There is a 2-mile section of the Main Park Road towards Flamingo where cars are being escorted by Law Enforcement rangers. Royal Palm and Flamingo Visitor Centers are open. Research Road and the Nike Missile Base remain closed.
On February 14 Everglades National Park wished everyone a happy Valentine’s Day.
Everglades National Park Fire Management personnel conducted the HID West prescribed fire on January 23. The objectives were to consume dead and decaying vegetation, to release nutrients that promote new growth, and improve habitat.
Everglades National Park, at the southern tip of Florida, has been using prescribed fire since 1958 to reintroduce and maintain fire as a part of an ecosystem that has been altered by humans. They have been doing it so long that they apparently feel comfortable having park visitors bicycle or take a tram along a road that is used as a fireline on an active prescribed fire.
In 2014 Everglades prescribed burned about five times as many acres as were blackened in wildfires — 23,162 compared to 4,641 acres. Only about four percent of the acres burned in unplanned fires last year were on fires that were completely suppressed. The rest were managed, or not entirely put out and allowed to accomplish resource management objectives.Like other units in the National Park System, Everglades is experiencing a “workforce realignment”. That’s National Park Service-speak for a major budget reduction. They are still figuring out the details, but it appears that the fire management staff will be “realigned” from about 35 to around 25 employees. Right now they have two staffed engines, fuels personnel, a fire ecologist, a helitack crew, and two fire effects monitors. Jack Weer, the assistant Fire Management Officer, said most of their wildfires occur in the months of January through May, but said they can have fires any month of the year. The park’s two engines, a Type 3 and a Type 6, hold 500 and 313 gallons, respectively. The also have two all terrain vehicles and four utility terrain vehicles. The Type 6 engine is on a Ford 550 chassis.
The park also has a very active aviation program, using helicopters extensively, occasionally several in one day. For decades they have used an exclusive use contracted helicopter plus call when needed aircraft, but in April, 2014 acquired their own ship, a Bell Long Ranger. For now they are using pilots under contract, but are considering, AFMO Weer said, hiring their own pilot. We have more information at FireAviation.com regarding the helicopter program.
In 2012 we told you about an excellent film that the park commissioned, titled The River of Fire. It was produced, directed, and edited by Jennifer Brown who at the time was an NPS Interpretation Division employee whose term appointment was about to end. Ms. Brown, now with Into Nature Films, has produced another great film about a 28,000-acre prescribed fire the park conducted in December, 2014. Check it out below: