Milton, FL – Residents of Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties can expect to see a good deal of smoke today and possibly through the weekend as the weather is prime for prescribed burning. As of 9 a.m. Friday morning, there were 14 authorizations issued for acreage burns totaling more than 5,300 acres as well as 8 piles in the three-county area.

Prescribed burns are conducted for a variety of reasons but hazardous fuel reduction and environmental benefits are two of the main ones, especially on Blackwater River State Forest. Conditions must be right in order to perform a successful prescribed burn, ensuring the fire doesn’t damage desirable vegetation such as Longleaf Pines but still burns hot enough to remove the undergrowth and dead vegetation from the forest floor.

“There’s a balance point between too wet and too dry as far as the weather goes,” said David Smith, Operations Administrator for Blackwater and a certified prescribed burner. “Today is an example of that balance, and we need to take advantage of the opportunity to put some fire on the ground to help manage the forest.”

Much of Florida’s natural landscape has been formed by fire over time and some of the ecosystems are even fire dependent – they need fire in order to germinate and reduce competing vegetation.