Prescribed Fire In the Interface: Separating The People From The TreesThis article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
Land managers in Florida rely on prescribed fire to prepare sites for regeneration, improve wildlife habitats, reduce vegetative competition, facilitate timber management activities, and mitigate wildfire risk. More than one million acres of land is scheduled for prescribed fire each year in Florida, nearly five times more than the area burned by wildfires. However, little has been done to understand the characteristics of communities affected by fire: who live in these communities and where are they located, where could additional prescribed burning and other wildfire risk mitigation activities be targeted, and how might continued population growth affect future tolerance for these practices? To shed light on these questions we use GIS overlay and correlation techniques to characterize and compare fire-affected zones in Florida. Characteristics studied include: population demographics, road density, neighborhood forest stand attributes, amount of forest fragmentation, and sources and frequency of wildfire ignition. We find that prescribed burning occurs in places where, on average, people are younger, earn lower incomes, have less formal education, are more frequently Caucasian, and live in more rural areas than people living in places without any prescribed fire or wildfire. High rates of prescribed burning occur in areas with less fragmented forests, more government management, and greater dominance by pine (Pinus spp.) forest types. Wildfires, on the other hand, occur most often in areas where forests are fragmented, ecologically more diverse, and privately owned.