Historic City News reporters in St Augustine and St Johns County have learned that the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve is planning an ecological prescribed burn in the coastal strand on the west side of South Ponte Vedra Boulevard beginning today, weather permitting.
In the alternative, the prescribed fires will begin Wednesday or Thursday. The prescribed burn will reintroduce the natural fire cycle to the ecosystems around the Guana River.
“The main purpose of our prescribed fire program is to reduce fuel loads and manage wildlife habitat between Guana Lake and South A1A,” said Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve Resource Management Coordinator Joe Burgess. “Nine units within the coastal strand, averaging about 30-acres each from Guana River Rd north to the North Beach Parking Lot, will be burned; one at a time, over the next few months until treatment of the total 288.5 acres has been completed.”
Residents of adjacent areas will see and possibly smell smoke from the fire. Prescribed burning activities may temporarily inconvenience boaters as well as motorists. The Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve has mowed a strip of the vegetation along the highway to significantly reduce the radiant heat and flame heights as well as minimize the potential for property damage.
Trained and experienced fire personnel have placed firebreaks around the area to contain the flames. Fire suppression equipment and staff from Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve and its partner agencies will be on site during the burning activity.
Periodic prescribed burns help to lessen the chances of wildfires by reducing the vegetation and dry debris that serves as fuel. Fires also play an important role in promoting new growth in natural communities. The resulting ash provides nutrients that foster new growth.