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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Paynes Prairie to celebrate fire awareness at Fire Fest

<p>Residents watch as the sun rises over Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park.</p>

Residents watch as the sun rises over Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park.

Smokey Bear doesn’t always want you to prevent forest fires.

Paynes Prairie will celebrate prescribed fire awareness with its annual Fire Fest from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on March 29 at the park’s visitor center.

A prescribed burn is a fire set by rangers in order to restore the native habitat, said parks service specialist Amber Roux.

“(Paynes Prairie) is a fire-dependent ecosystem,” Roux said. “We still need to have fire in these systems to keep them healthy and functional.”

Experts control the fires by keeping them within strict parameters that are a safe distance away from U.S. Route 441, said assistant park manager Matt Bledsoe.

“We work very closely with Florida Highway (Patrol),” he said. “We would not do a burn if it was projected to affect the highway.”

Rangers will not conduct a real prescribed fire during Fire Fest because burns are dependent on the weather, he said.

At the event, participants will visit various interactive stations to learn about the tools and equipment used to conduct burns. There will also be scavenger hunts, hayrides and an appearance by Smokey Bear.

Shelby Krantz, a 22-year-old UF forest resources and conservation second-year graduate student, said she would be interested in attending.

“It’s important for people to know why (the prairie) is on fire, and why it’s OK for the people to do it,” she said.

[A version of this story ran on page 5 on 3/11/2014 under the headline "Paynes Prairie heats up for Fire Fest"]

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