Florida Forest Service To Burn 8,500 Acres in Goethe State Forest


With strong winds and cold temperatures, the Florida Forest Service set out to burn 8,525 acres in Dunnellon during what they consider to be ideal weather conditions.

The Florida Forest Service began the aerial burn in Goethe State Forest today, after rain delayed its start on Tuesday. Before the forest service helicopter arrived, Ludie Bond, a Wildfire Mitigation Specialist, explained to people living in the area what would happen this week.

“They [the Florida Forest Service] came around yesterday and explained to us what was going on,” said Bob Still, who lives one block from the road closures.

Roads will be closed due to smoky conditions and heavy equipment working in the area. The closures will take place between northbound State Road 121 and US 29 as well as southbound 121 and County Road 326. In addition, County Road 337 between SR 121 and CR 326 will be closed.

The Florida Highway Patrol is monitoring the road closures and the smoke conditions associated with the burn.

“There will be some residual smoke in the surrounding area, but I don’t think its going to be anything that people have to worry about as far as reduced visibility. They will see probably a haze in the area more than anything else,” Florida Highway Patrol spokesperson, Pat Riordan said.

Most residents were not affected by the burn.

“Occasionally I see a little bit of ash falling, you know, but it doesn’t really effect me,” Still said.

Other preparations for the prescribed burn included ground crews using drip torches, which light the ground on fire to prepare the land for when the helicopter drops spherical ignition devices. These Ping-Pong ball sized devices are dropped from helicopters after being injected with antifreeze and combust.

“We are hoping that the brunt of the smoke will be concentrated on the parts of the road we have closed,” District Lt. for the Florida Highway Patrol Pat Riordan said.

The Florida Forest Service explained there are many benefits to prescribed burns. They return nutrients to the soil and help control certain plant diseases. They also reduce the buildup of dry and flammable plant materials to help prevent wildfires.

“We have a longleaf restoration program going on which requires prescribed burning. As well as our endangered species, we have gopher tortoises, red-cockaded woodpeckers, and scrub jays that are fire dependent,” Bond says.

About 4,000 acres will  burn today. The Florida Service plans to complete the project by burning 4,525 acres Thursday.

Last year was the Florida Forest Service’s largest prescribed burn, coming in at 12,000 acres.

About Sydney Martin

Sydney is a reporter for WUFT News who may be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news @wuft.org

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