Good Fire

Flagler County is proud to present Good Fire, a video about the local use of prescribed fire, a technique used to reduce the buildup of hazardous wildfire fuel, thus providing increased protection for people, their homes, and their community.  At the same time, prescribed fire can optimize the maintenance and growth of local ecosystems, those native plant and animal species whose habitats depend on periodic fire.

 

The vast majority of Florida’s natural ecosystems evolved over time as a direct result of the natural occurrence of fire. Each natural community found in our area such as pine flatwoods, coastal strand, sandhill, coastal dune, and maritime hammock contain a unique combination of plants and animals that have evolved to thrive within those natural communities. Those combinations of flora and fauna help to predict the periodicity and intensity of naturally occurring fires.  While some natural communities might catch fire every 2-3 years during lightning season, others would burn every 7-10 years.

As humans expanded our reach into the natural areas, we traditionally extinguished fires as soon as they started — so human intervention has had an effect on the periodicity and intensity of fire. Instead of the cyclical “burning off” of small amounts of vegetative fuel every few years, natural areas build up dense stockpiles of burnable, organic fuels.  As we reduce the periodicity of the natural fire, the potential for larger, more intense and destructive wildfires increases.

Within the last 30 years scientists, citizens, and local and federal governments have come to recognize the public safety benefits that occur from a rigorous and cautious application of fire to natural areas.  As a county that has seen several seasons of intense and destructive wildfire since the 1980’s, Flagler County, the City of Palm Coast, and other local municipalities identified the benefits of controlled burning as a tool for preventing wildfires, while maintaining the biological integrity of our citizen-owned wildland assets.

In every instance that Flagler County plans a controlled burn, details such as the condition of the fuels, the expected wind patterns driving fire behavior and the fate of the smoke plume are considered.  Recent and expected rainfall, and even fluctuations in the relative humidity are all factored in before proceeding.  Trained and certified personnel monitor these, and other parameters.  When favorable conditions align, they create a plan for on-site fire control resources based on the expected fire behavior.  The unexpected is considered as well, and emergency contingency plans are documented.

That information is submitted to our local Florida Forest Service office — in the form of a fire “prescription” — for review and agreement on approach, safety considerations, protocols, and contingencies. Once approved, personnel are mobilized to the site. Current site conditions are observed and if deemed in compliance with the prescription, controlled burning can commence.  If not, the event is postponed or cancelled.

Multiple agencies put feet on the ground for a prescribed burn, often including the Florida Forest Service, Flagler County Fire Rescue, Flagler Emergency Flight Operations, Flagler County Land Management, and various prescribed-fire contractors.  Once firing operations are successfully completed, staff will remain onsite to perform “mop-up” until conditions are such that the site can be cleared of personnel.  Staff will also monitor the site for several days after fire operations are ceased.

The film “Good Fire” was written and sequenced by Michael Lagassé, the Land Management Coordinator for Flagler County since 2011. “Having grown up just up the road in Saint Augustine, and feeling the way I do about our unique natural resources, I’m thrilled that I’m able to play a part in Flagler County’s effort to accomplish its stewardship goals for its truly top-notch natural areas and parks like Princess Place Preserve, MalaCompra Park, River to Sea Preserve, and Haw Creek Preserve.”

Another notable contributor is narrator and co-writer Zachary Prusak, Florida Fire Manager and Central Florida Conservation Program Manager at The Nature Conservancy.  Prusak is responsible for administration and oversight of the Florida Chapter of the Nature Conservancy fire management program.

Just as each controlled burn is a collaborative effort with multiple agencies involved, Flagler County could not have produced “Good Fire” without the critical contributions of Land Managers, Biologists, and Fire Managers from all over Florida and Georgia who contributed materials to the film.