Planned burning for Okeeheelee Park in West Palm Beach started Monday.
The prescribed burning season will run through the end of May for the Okeeheelee Park Natural Area and through the end of October for Okeeheelee Park South – seven months and nearly a full year, respectively.
Greg Atkinson, Palm Beach County’s parks operations superintendent, said that long period is normal, and doesn’t mean residents should expect nonstop flames and smoke – park officials typically conduct fewer than 10 burns, lasting six to eight hours each, per year.
The expansive date range gives park officials a large window to make sure they can nail the Goldilocks-like conditions – everything, from wind speed to weather to readiness of equipment and staff, has to be just right.
To keep the burns to a single day, Atkinson said the county also considers the “fuel load,” or the amount of flammable material.
“If the fuel load is high, we burn less acreage,” he said. “We like to make sure the area is smoke-free at the end of the day.”
Atkinson said the most they’ve burned in a day at Okeeheelee is 20 acres, and that was mostly grass – a lighter fuel load.
Prescribed burns, like the ones planned for Okeeheelee, are undertaken to manage the land. In a news release, the county said it burns areas “to reduce dead and dense vegetation, to improve habitat for wildlife and restore nutrients to the soil.”
People around the park who have respiratory conditions like asthma can arrange to get a heads-up the day of a burn by calling (561) 966-6679.