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Photos used with permission. Photo credit: Emily May, Michael Faustini, Brooke Hogrefe, and Frank Galdo

On Saturday, January 30th, Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park held it first prescription burn of 2021.  Burn Boss and Park Services Specialist Michael Faustini said, “What better way than to end prescribed fire awareness week than on a prescribed fire”.

Prescribed fire is used to reduce hazardous fuels from overgrown brush and forest litter thereby reducing the risk of wildfires.  Specifically, there are five Resource Management Objectives for Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park to meet with prescribed fires.  These objectives are as follows:

  1. Consume 60% to 80% of surface fuels including pine litter and anything that could burn from 10 up to 100 hours.
  2. Top kill understory oaks and other woody shrubs by greater than 50%.
  3. Ensure pine mortality less than 10% of old growth pine trees.
  4. Open upland area for exotic removal.
  5. Maintain fire adapted plant communities.

Be sure to read future articles regarding prescribed fires at our park for more information about the burn, as well as how the fire affects the plants and animals of the park.

There is a lot of planning that must go into preparing for prescribed fires.  Plans for the prescribed fires at Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park for 2021 were submitted to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in June 2020.  After the plans are submitted, the Burn Boss must write a detailed prescription for each individual area to be burned.  A prescription can take as little as a week to a month or more to write.  Finally, the burn boss must wait for the weather conditions to be right for the day of the prescribed burn.

The prescribed burn on January 30th, included twenty acres in the main park area.  This area had not been burned for nine years.  Actually, Sandpine Alliance President, David Hogrefe was the Burn Boss the last time this area of our park was burned.  The natural growth of brush and forest litter (fallen branches and leaves) made for a very intense fire. In the nine years that had past, lots of structures and interpretive displays have been added to the park for the enjoyment and education of visitors.  These structures require lots of protection during the burn to keep them safe.

The burn team on January 30th was made up of staff and volunteers from the following:

·       Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park

o   Adam Belden, Park Manager

o   Michael Faustini, Park Services Specialist & Burn Boss

o   Karen Strawn, Park Ranger

o   Marty Montour, FLCC member (AmeriCorps)

o   Mike Emmerich, Retired Park Ranger & Volunteer

·       Honeymoon Island State Park

o   Russel Anderson, Park Ranger

·       Weeki Wachee State Park

o   Mike Batten, Park Services Specialist & Boat Captain

o   Jessica Lachance, Park Ranger

o   Emily May, Park Services Specialist

o   Olivia Mitchell – Exotic Plant Technician

·       Port Richey Fire Department

o   Bruce Jwanouskos

o   Mason Jwanouskos

o   Thomas Quinn Sr.

o   Alec Vandercar

·       Sandpine Alliance

o   Brooke Hogrefe, Executive Vice President

o   David Hogrefe, President

The next prescribed burn at Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park is set to cover 47 acres in the main park area.  The date of this burn is pending awaiting the right weather conditions.

All photos courtesy of Michael Faustini, Emily May, and Brooke Hogrefe.

by Becky Kesel

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