Mostly Florida - Winter 2015 travel blog

face paint

lighting the blaze

red wolf

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the blaze

Throughout most of our lives Smokey the Bear warned us to prevent forest fires. It's counter intuitive to think otherwise. But more recently we have suffered from this fire management approach and fires burning through thick underbrush have become challenging to fight. These days good forest management requires regular burning of underbrush, leaving space for new and varied growth. But you need skilled people who know who to light such fires and control them without burning down the whole forest. In these days of sequestration there are few funds to pay such forest workers so seeing them in action was a special event.

We are staying in a national forest campground that is in need of such a burn and one is scheduled during the next few months on an optimum day when the wind and moisture conditions are perfect. The visitor center nearby gathered the fire fighters and local families for a small festival to educate and demonstrate what it's all about. The younger visitors were entertained by face painters and balloon animals. Before the burn we enjoyed fast food, local style. A vendor hand cut potatoes for fries and served pulled pork sandwiches and jambalaya. There were also some gullah descendants selling their gorgeous seagrass baskets. I was sorely tempted to buy one. If only they weren't so expensive.

There were hiking trails around the visitor center and one lead to an enclosure with red wolves, a somewhat smaller version of the ones we've seen out west. These too are endangered due to predation and loss of habitat and local authorities are struggling with how to manage the last few survivors. The keeper spoke enthusiastically about how he manages his small pack and their fur looked thick and healthy. While conditions were good enough to birth a littler of pups, the wolves we saw today paced around their small enclosure. He said they were working off their lunch; we were not convinced.

Of course, the premier event was the burn. The fireman dripped fuel in patterns so that the fire was confined by areas previously burned. For the demonstration a confined bed was used, but it still seemed tricky to me to manage such a pattern on a large scale.

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