CITRUS COUNTY, Fla. — This week is prescribed burn awareness week for the Florida Forest Service.
- Crews burned about 3,000 acres at Withlacoochee State Forest
- Machine drops chemical filled balls to forest
- More Citrus County headlines
One of those burns took place Thursday in Citrus County. Crews there used a helicopter to burn thousands of acres fast.
Thursday's burn encompassed over 3,000 acres in the Citrus Tract of the Withlacoochee State Forest.
"We're burning to maintain the ecosystem similar to how you might mow your lawn to maintain it. If you'd quit mowing, how it would grow up in weeds," said Vincent Morris with the Florida Forest Service.
But for a job this size, they have to set the fire on the ground and in the air.
"The benefit of the helicopter is it allows us to accomplish a large acreage in a small amount of time," Morris said.
A machine sits inside the helicopter dropping chemical filled balls to the forest below.
The forest service injects ping pong size balls with antifreeze. The antifreeze reacts with the chemicals inside and then catches on fire when it hits the ground.
They do several burns of various sizes throughout the year.
"The grasses and the wildlife all require fire to be able to maintain themselves, otherwise the system would change and those species would all go away," Morris said.
Beetles, pocket gophers, and woodpeckers are just some of the many species that call this forest home.
And the burns help ensure they'll be there for many more years to come.
Morris also said they specifically planned this burn after rain to keep the intensities low.
He said the part of the forest they were burning Thursday will have to be burned again in another two or three years.