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Pine Rockland Prescribed Burn


The FIU Nature Preserve's one acre of Pine Rockland underwent a prescribed burn Monday, March 14 during Spring Break. The Nature Preserve has been reopened. 
What is a prescribed burn?

Prescribed burns are safe, effective man-made fires controlled fire experts that help restore health to fire-adapted environments. Unlike Wildfires, prescribed burns are carefully planned to take place only under ideal conditions and are closely watched by experienced fire crews.

Why does FIU need a prescribed burn?

The FIU Nature Preserve features a 1-acre pine rockland ecosystem in the center. This “globally imperiled” ecosystem is only found in South Florida; only 2% remain of Miami Dade County’s original pine rockland.  Today approximately 4,000 of the original 185,000 acres of pine rockland on the Miami Rock Ridge still remain. The largest stands include the Richmond Pineland tract that encompasses Miami Zoo (850 acres), Navy Wells pineland Preserve south of Homestead (400 acres), and Nixon Smiley Pineland Preserve east of Kendall Tamiami Airport (120 acres). Pine rocklands contain the highest plant diversity of any other habitat in Florida and are home to more than 400 native plants, some of which are among Florida's rarest species. 4 federally endangered, 50+ state endangered or threatened. Fire plays a vital role for this ecosystem. Pine rockland species have adapted to periodic fires, and many species in this type of ecosystem are actually dependent on fire for their survival. In its natural state, pine rocklands would have a fire every 3 to 7 years, usually created by lightning strikes.Experts say prescribed fire is the only way to preserve pinelands within urbanized areas.

How does a prescribed burn work?

A crew from the Florida Forest Service who have been trained in fire safety and management will set a series of small fires in the burn area.  The fire will be controlled with a variety of methods including setting backfires and water. Fire breaks, which are a space clear of flammable materials to stop fire from moving out of the burn area, will surround burn location. The Florida Forest Service will also have equipment on site including a fire engine.

Why spring break?

Spring Break was considered the most feasible time to conduct a burn because of its ideal weather conditions and because more students and faculty will be off campus.

Benefits of prescribed burns

▪       Reduces hazardous fuels, protecting human communities from extreme fires
▪       Minimizes the spread of pest insects and disease
▪       Removes unwanted species that threaten species native to an ecosystem
▪       Improves habitat for threatened and endangered species
▪       Recycles nutrients back to the soil
▪       Promotes the growth of trees, wildflowers, and other plants

What's the process?

Site visit to ensure a burn is suitable. The Florida Forest Service conducts a walk through of the area and prepared a “prescription” for the area.
Alert proper departments and authorities. Many departments at FIU such as Environmental Health and Safety, Housing, and faculty members have been involved with conversations to plan a burn on campus. Before the burn, FIU Police and local first responders will be alerted. 
Schedule a burn date. A tentative date was chosen based on proper season for burning, Florida Forest Service availability, and the least disruption to campus activities.
Prep the burn area. Some vegetation has been removed from the pine rockland to better control the burn. The day before the burn the sand-break all the way around the burn area will be prepped and all signs and tree tags will be removed.
Watch the weather forecast. The Florida Forest Service looks at the weather forecast to pick a day that the wind is blowing in a favorable direction and not too strong.
Secure the area. Notice of the burn will be place around the FIU Nature Preserve a week before. The day before all entrances to the Nature Preserve will be barricaded off. The morning of the burn a sweep of the Preserve will be done to ensure everyone is out.

FAQs

What about the animals? The burn area is only 1-acre in size. The animals will have the remaining 9 acres of the Nature Preserve to take shelter in. With all the human activity before the burn, many of the animals will be scared out of the burn area.
Will I see flames? The Florida Forest Service crew will set a series of small fires. The goal is for the flames to remain small and low to just urn out the vegetation on the ground.
What about smoke? During the prescribed burn you may see and smell smoke. The highly trained crew will work with weather conditions to get the smoke to blow
How will it look after? The area will look burned after, but Slash Pines and other native species will remain. Most of the native plants will bloom 4 to 16 weeks after the burn.

View FAQ Flyer

View aerial map of prescribed burn area

View our Flickr Album

It's our Heritage:

The Florida State Flower, Tickseed, likes to make its home in pine rocklands
The Zebra Long-Wing Butterfly, our state insect, is often found in the pine rocklands
Roary, the Florida Panther loves to visit the pine rockland hunting for its favorite dinner, white tailed deer.

Resources: 

Miami-Dade - Pine Rockland
National Parks Service - Pine Rocklands
US Forest Service - Fire Management
Florida Forest Service - Using Fire Wisely
Smokey Bear
Priceless Florida, Natural Ecosystems and Native Species by Ellie Whitney, D. Brice Means, and Anne Rudloe