Large Billows of Smoke Over Florida Alarm Locals

You might have noticed billows of smoke covering the Florida sky last Sunday if you live in Brevard County or its neighboring areas. Officials assured worried residents that the fire was intentionally lit to prevent wildfires from spiraling out of control.

Cruise ship docked in a Florida harbor on a sunny day with reflections and glare visible from the window glass.

Large and thick clouds of smoke engulfed the sky. From the water, it looked like Port Canaveral and the vicinity might be on fire.

As residents across Central Florida noticed the alarming scene overhead, local authorities informed the public that it was part of a prescribed or controlled burn, a routine activity that entails setting fire to natural environments to mitigate extreme wildfires.

Where was the Real fire coming from?

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
(Photo by Jesse Kunerth/Shutterstock)

According to the Brevard County Emergency Management Office, the fire was in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, less than 30 miles from Port Canaveral. The area is along the Florida coast, around 60 miles east of Orlando.

Spanning 140,000 acres, it is home to endangered and threatened plant and animal species. Since its establishment in 1963, part of its mission has been protecting migratory birds. A thousand acres of the wildlife preserve were set ablaze during the fire.

Why light fires deliberately?

Control Burn at Merritt Island
Control Burn at Merritt Island (Photo courtesy of C.S. Allsup/Shutterstock)

Deliberately setting certain areas ablaze reduces the likelihood of uncontrollable wildfires. Thus, human settlements become safer while natural habitats are maintained. The practice also promotes tree growth by clearing away vegetation so new plants have more room to grow. 

Schedules for burning are carefully chosen so they don’t threaten the safety of the public or the fire managers. The weather and the conditions inside the forest must also allow the fire to be carefully controlled. These burns are typically carried out every 1 to 5 years. 

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