CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. - Forestry workers say it isn't often the conditions are perfect for a prescribed nighttime burn.
But Sunday night, moisture on the ground, humidity, and temperature were all working for the Florida Forest Service, as it lit up 33 acres of private property near the Charlotte-Desoto County line.
The agency does dozens of controlled burns each year, all at the request of private landowners.
On the surface, it might seem like a simple process, but crews say a lot of planning and training goes into it.
"It is a very difficult dance," says Randy Coldiron, a Forest Service supervisor, "to coordinate this and it all come together."
Coldiron says a burn can take a week to plan and requires consulting the weather forecast for days in advance. If the conditions are not the same as what was predicted for the day of the burn, it is canceled.
In the case of Sunday's prescribed burn, landowner Kent Connell was looking to clear flammable debris from his grounds and replenish the land. The Forest Service chose to burn in the evening hours to allow the trees to thrive, while the dead brush was destroyed.
With the wind coming in from the Northeast, crews started at the opposite end of the property, to keep the fire slow and creeping. Embers sparking outside the burn zone were controlled before the lighting continued.
The entire burn process takes several hours, but in the end, crews say the land is better off for creatures and people.
"It's good for the ecosystem, for fire hazards, and for the customer. It's a tool that the customer can use," says Coldiron.
The Forestry Service offers help with prescribed burns to landowners with any sized property. The agency charges $20 per acre.