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Burning the Sawmill Slough Preserve

With the frequency of lightning in Florida, wildfires will occur. Dead leaves and branches are the fuel for wildfires and they build up at a rapid rate. The pine forests of the southeastern United States are adapted to regular fires. The health of the forest and its inhabitants depends on them. Recent studies indicate that the native plant and animal populations can triple in a forest in the year following a burn. Without a doubt, fire is critical to the health of the populations of the threatened gopher tortoise in the area of the Preserve.

The technical term for a managed burn that is permitted by the Division of Forestry is Prescribed Burn. The prescription is a document that defines the area to be burned, the terrain and other conditions of the site, the forecasted weather conditions and the personnel and equipment on site. The actual permit is not issued until the morning of the planned burn. Regular Prescribed Burns restore the habitat, remove the fuel and reduce the chance of a large, uncontrollable wildfire.

The greatest difficulty for a Prescribed Burn on the UNF campus is the control of smoke. The burns are conducted on the west side of campus. We cannot allow the smoke to interfere with traffic on State Road 9A to the west or on Butler Boulevard to the south. That means we must tolerate the smoke to the east and north. Unfortunately, the campus is in these directions. To minimize the inconvenience, we will conduct burns only four or five times per year. Whenever the weather allows, we will burn during school breaks and weekends. Burns are conducted on windy days that dilute and disperse the smoke as quickly as possible. Also, each burn is restricted to relatively small areas to minimize the amount of smoke produced in a day.





Sawmill Slough control burn preparation


Sawmill Slough control burn flames


Preparation for a burn


A burn


Sawmill Slough control burn complete


Sawmill slough control burn wildflowers


Immediately after a burn


One month after a burn, the wildflowers are blooming


Sawmill Slough control burn plant life


Nine months after a burn