Bay County residents living near the Naval Support Activity Panama City may soon see plumes of smoke rising as the base conducts "prescribed" or controlled burns of undergrowth in its forested areas.
NSA PC Environmental officials request authorizations through the Florida Forest Service to conduct prescribed burns in areas with overgrown vegetation at several locations on the Navy's property between the Hathaway Bridge and Magnolia Beach Road.
With proper weather conditions, a prescribed burn could be conducted during any favorable weather period beginning in November through August 31, 2013. Ideal weather conditions include a slight breeze, moderate humidity, and ground effects that would dissipate the smoke and ash vertically.
Florida statutes outline requirements to conduct burns using acceptable practices that benefit the public and the environment. Prescribed burning is used to protect property and save lives, but also for ecological, forestry and wildlife management.
Prescribed burning is an excellent way to reduce the undergrowth, according to NSA PC Natural Resources Manager Jonnie Smallman. "With prescribed burning, NSA PC can reduce the fuels that feed wildfires, lessening the chance that someday the forested areas could suffer a catastrophic fire," Smallman said. Prescribed burning is an efficient and economic tool for wildlife habitat enhancement and management of an ecosystem.
Prescribed burns will be conducted between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Navy employees and housing residents are requested to stay clear of the affected areas. Only NSA PC and Forest Service personnel with responsibilities inside the burn area will be permitted past checkpoints.