On Friday, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park working in cooperation with the Florida Forest Service underwent a prescribed burn on the prairie basin ignited by helicopter.
“There’s actually an apparatus on the helicopter that shoots out essentially a ping-pong shaped sphere,” said Amber Roux, Paynes Prairie State Park services specialist.
“There’s a time delay of about 15 seconds or so before that sphere ignites,” she said. “So it’s already on the ground hopefully by the time that it ignites and it lights a fire on the ground.”
Firefighter router craft pilot Kevin Fender said using the helicopter is more efficient than burning by hand.
“With this machine we’ll burn these 800-acres in probably about 30 minutes,” he said. They’ll be done in about three or four hours, as soon as everything burns out.”
Roux said the helicopter is also a safer method.
“There are certain areas that are hard to get to, areas at the prairie basin are pretty wet,” she said. “Just some of the environmental conditions out there are hard for us to get that many people out in a quick period of time.”
The goals of the burn are reducing some hardwood trees that have moved in on the basin and promoting the growth of grasses. As well as mitigating potential wildfires.
Roux said if there is any chance of it reaching a highway the fire would impact State Road 20, although it’s not expected to.
“It’s our plan to not have any smoke on the roads,” she said.
Sarah Brand wrote this story online.