Flagler County on Friday successfully completed its first prescribed fire utilizing FireFlight equipped with an aerial ignition machine to set fire to 85 acres within Princess Place Preserve.
“This is a great success for us – the beginning of something safer and more effective for our (Land Management) prescribed fire mitigation program,” said Prescribed Fire Program Supervisor Mike Orlando, who is “burn boss” for the day. “And, the third time is the charm – we scheduled this two other times this year, but things outside of our control prevented it from happening.”
Under certain circumstances, the aerial ignition process is better for achieving prescribed fire objectives than lighting the fire from the ground. Orlando, who has an Aerial Ignition Device certification through the Florida Forest Service, operated the aerial ignition machine from within the helicopter, which was flown by Flight Operations Chief Dana Morris.
“There was a lot of experience in that helicopter,” said Morris, who used aerial ignition when he worked in the Rocky Mountains. “Michael and Ashley Orlando (Florida Park Service’s Backlog Abatement Team Leader) and I worked really well together, and it went off without a hitch. It sets a great foundation for doing more of this work in the future.”
The machine releases spheres about the size of ping pong balls that create a chemical reaction to start the fire.
“This allows us to manage the intensity of the fire over a larger area,” said Environmental Projects Supervisor Mike Lagasse. “By starting multiple small fires within the unit, the fuel is consumed at a lower intensity – it burns itself out faster.”
A successful prescribed fire, sometimes also referred to as a “controlled” fire, removes the hazardous level of fuel in a given area. Unplanned wildfires have a greater risk of being destructive, because the accumulation of vegetation serves as the fuel for these hotter, faster moving fires.
Flagler County’s goal with prescribed fire in Princess Place Preserve is to restore natural fire back into ecosystems and remove hazardous fuels. Longleaf pine already exists in many areas of the burns – which mimics the natural fires that have historically occurred every two to three years within longleaf pine ecosystems. A thriving ecosystem reduces the invasive species populations while enhancing other native plants and animals.
Land Management maintains about 10,000 acres of environmentally sensitive lands within Flagler County.
Flagler County Fire Rescue, St. Johns River Water Management District, and the Florida Park Service assisted Land Management with Friday’s effort. Flagler County’s drone team documented the event.
“Drones are a valuable resource for identifying hot spots and spot fires before they can spread,” said Matt Adams, GIS Developer / UAS Coordinator. “This was a great exercise to coordinate our communication with the helicopter while a drone is flying simultaneously.”
Watch videos of the operation below, as provided by Flagler County:
Paul C Pritchard says
It’s great to see them do this. They are replicating a natural process. Having seen some conflagrations out west, I’d rather they do this and often than have a crisis here. ESPECIALLY this year when the predictions are for less rain and more fires. Good work, folks.
Former Deputy Director, U.S. Dept. of Interior/HCRS
Why burn this area, I’m almost certain there are lumber corporations that would’ve been more than happy to go in there thin the forest & harvest the pine trees for lumber to build more homes with ?
Roy Longo says
Jim, this is done to burn the underbrush, not the trees. Maybe a few trees will die but the vast majority will survive and actually thrive with the underbrush burned out. Wild fires destroy trees. Controlled burns saves them.
Smokey Care says
Oh boy, their dropping little balls of “Hell” into the forest. Did they get all the wildlife out first ? A turtle needs 3 days to travel a football field. And the little baby squirrels can’t run away like their parents can. Maybe they can use this technic on the riots in Portland and that other sheethole in Minneapolis .
In 98 I believe we had wildfires here that swept through a large portion of town. The town was evacuated and we all wondered if we still had homes We spent the month of June gagging on the smoke from the fires surrounding the area and July 4 It became too much for the volunteer fire department.
Walter P. Nesstin says
You should have been here back in 93 or the BIG ONE back in 88. Now that’s when Palm Coast was ” Hot time in the Old Town” those days !!!!!