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How Florida Firefighters Fight Wildfires with Fire

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Florida’s longleaf pine forests need fire to survive and rejuvenate, but the much-needed wildfire threatens local human populations. To keep these forests alive and away from people, fire management specialists ignite controlled, man-made fires.

(thunder booming) - [Narrator] Florida is the lightning capital of the United States.

(thunder booming) Over a million bolts strike each year.

(fire crackling) Just one can ignite the parched landscape.

But this isn't the disaster that it looks.

This forest needs fire to survive.

The trees can take the heat.

As the flames clear the forest floor of unwanted scrub.

(intense music) But a landscape that needs fire creates major conflict in a state with a growing human presence.

Almost 900 move here every day.

Adding to a population of 20 million.

To protect homes, lightning strike fires must be put out immediately.

(helicopter thrumming) - We can't have fires just moseying around the landscape.

There is people that would be in harm's way.

There are houses and people's livelihoods would be affected.

- [Narrator] To keep longleaf forests alive, here, burns are manmade, and carefully managed by organizations like The Nature Conservancy.

- Fire needs to be addressed, really anywhere, through prescribed fire.

We have to manage this fire, we have to keep it safe.

However, we do our best to mimic what mother nature would've done with naturally ignited fires.

The idea of fire is an ecological disturbance.

But that really puts a negative spin on it.

This chaotic, seemingly destructive force, is mother nature's great rejuvenator.

- [Narrator] Fire has been a feature of this landscape for millennia.

And by keeping the natural cycle alive, Floridians are leading the way in controlled fire management across the United States.

They've reduced the risk of wildfires, and restored thousands of acres of longleaf pine.