How Prescribed Burns On Sanibel Preserve Natural Island Ecology

News headline’s such as “Sanibel Covered in Ash and Smoke” paint an extreme picture of the prescribed burns that occur on Sanibel every so often. But hey, they grab your attention. And now that we have yours, let’s chat about prescribed burns, and how they help maintain the Sanibel environment everyone loves.

5 Quick Prescribed Burn Q&A’s

What Is A Prescribed Burn?

Simply put, a controlled fire of gardens or woods that is planned in advance, and monitored by the fire department and other environmental organizations. 

Why Do We Have Prescribed Burns?

Fire removes old vegetation and promotes growth of native vegetation by suppressing non-native invasive plants. Many wildlife creatures such as the gopher tortoise, and Sanibel rice rat rely on a fire controlled ecosystem for survival. It also helps prevent the likelihood of catastrophic wildfires and preserve the natural ecology of our island.

When Do Prescribed Burns Occur?

The time of year, weather and climate conditions determine the best time for prescribed burns. On Sanibel, the window of opportunity is very narrow. The conditions can neither be too dry, too wet or too humid in order to conduct a safe and successful burn.

Who Controls Prescribed Burns on Sanibel?

There is a Sanibel Prescribed Fire Task Force… who knew?! The City of Sanibel is greatly involved in the process, as are the Sanibel Fire and Police Departments, along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Local organizations such as SCCF and DING Darling are usually involved in the process as well, since these organizations occupy most of the land that is affected by the burn units. 

What Effect Do Prescribed Burns Have On Residents?

Island residents near the burn site will be alerted of a prescribed burn well in advanced, and provided instructions on reducing the smell of smoke and ash debris by closing windows, covering pools and cars, and bringing outdoor furniture inside. For those more sensitive to smoke, there is a list of Smoke Sensitive Individuals held by the City, which provides more resources and further details about each scheduled burn.

The City of Sanibel has a FAQ document for prescribed burns that you can read by clicking here. Below is a map of prescribed burns areas of 2018. As the map notes, each of the burn sites are divided into manageable burn units, not intended to burn the entire area at once.

How Do We Feel About It?

While nobody loves the smell or sight of burning brush, most residents on Sanibel understand and even appreciate the proactive motion of preserving our delicate ecosystem and protecting against the threat of wildfires. So, in short, we deal with it. The City officials and partner organizations do a great job at managing the prescribed burns, and we usually see no major effect on everyday activities on the island despite how the headlines read. 

Jim McCallion About Jim McCallion

Meet the "Marketing Megaphone" and Webmaster behind McCallion & McCallion. After selling his software company, Jim, Susan and kids moved to Sanibel in 2008. With his tech experience, he and Susan bring a fresh approach to island real estate.