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Prescribed fire update: District plans Wednesday burn in Walton County

The Northwest Florida Water Management District plans to conduct a prescribed fire Tuesday on 636 acres in southeastern Walton County.

District staff will conduct the prescribed burn at Devils Swamp within the Choctawhatchee River Water Management Area. This burn unit is located north of Bunker Road, the Intercoastal Waterway, and Highway 98 and east of the community of Bunker and Highway 331.

The District uses prescribed fires as land-management tools on specific areas of land, during the right weather conditions, with established boundary lines. 

All prescribed fires conducted by the District must be authorized by the Florida Forest Service.

Though prescribed fires may be planned months in advance, the final decision to burn typically occurs the day before or even the morning of the scheduled fire. The Florida Forest Service confirms if weather conditions and other site factors are suitable for authorizing the burn.

The detailed plan for every prescribed fire is reviewed with Florida’s Smoke Screening Tool, which uses computer models and forecasted weather data to view potential impacts from a predicted smoke plume. If the screening tool projects a significant impact to smoke-sensitive areas, such as hospitals, nursing homes, roadways, and airports, the burn plan must be changed.

Planning a prescribed fire also includes the designation of personnel and firefighting equipment, a map of fire breaks and burn area boundaries, wind speed and direction for surface and transport winds, the mixing height, relative humidity, temperature, fine fuel moisture, and desired fire behavior.

The District conducts prescribed fires to clear out overgrowth that could potentially fuel wildfires. These prescribed fires also help protect habitats by fostering new growth that keeps forests healthy and promotes biodiversity. The fires help control insects (such as ticks) and diseases (like brownspot fungal infection), which can kill young longleaf pines.

For more information on this prescribed fire or the District’s prescribed fire program, please email public.information@nwfwater.com or call (850) 539-5999.