State park burns 31 acres to preserve habitat

By: 
Sep. 13, 2012

On Wednesday, a controlled burn in North Peninsula State Park was executed to both preserve the Scrub Jay habitat and prevent potential wild fires.

BY MATT MENCARINI | STAFF WRITER

Ormond Beach residents may have seen smoke billowing from North Peninsula State Park along A1A Wednesday afternoon and been concerned. But the fire was a planned and safely executed controlled burn, according to Emily Wehr, park services specialist.

The North Peninsula State Park burned 31 acres approximately a half-mile south of High Bridge Road on A1A, over the course of roughly six and a half hours.

"(We) reduced the height of the fuel, (which) is what is critical for a productive Scrub Jay habitat,” Burn Manager Emily Wehr said. “Florida historically has always burned because we’re the lightning capital."

The fuel Wehr referred to is natural vegetation. The higher it grows, the more it pushes the Scrub Jays out of the area. The higher vegetation is also more susceptible to catching fire from a lighting strike.

To ensure the safety and efficiency of the burn, the state parks for the necessary weather conditions and create a perimeter around the zone they want to burn.

The weather condition is determined by what Assistant Park Manager Mark Giblin calls the “fire prescription.” It’s monitored at least a week out of the projected burn date.

The perimeter is created by using tractors to scrape away the grass so there is a soil surrounding the intended burn zone.

Wehr said there were 15 individuals, along with fire trucks and ATVs, on hand for the burn.

The fire was started with a burn mix, which Wehr said consists of a mix of diesel fuel and gasoline, and was dispensed from drip torches used by crew members.

"We didn’t run into too many issues,” Wehr said of the burn.” The conditions were pretty ideal and we accomplished our objectives. So we’re all pretty happy.”

Giblin said the burn was the first of two his department wants to do this year. The second zone to potentially be burned is at the corner of John Anderson Drive and High Bridge Road.