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Title: Florida's Revised Prescribed Fire Law: Protection For Responsible Burners

Author: Brenner, Jim; Wade, Dale;

Date: 2003

Source: Pages 132-136 in K.E.M. Galley, R.C. Klinger, and N.G. Sugihara (eds.). Proceedings of Fire Conference 2000: The First National Congress on Fire Ecology, Prevention, and Management. Miscellaneous Publication No. 13, Tall Timbers Research Station, Tallahassee, FL.

Publication Series: Miscellaneous Publication

Description: In Florida, natural communities require periodic fires for maintenance of their ecological integrity. Because of public concerns, wildfires can no longer be allowed to perform this mandatory function so prescribed burning is essential to manage these plant and animal communities. We discuss the importance of prescribed fire in Florida, outline a history of the state's interest and involvement in promoting the judicious use of prescribed fire, describe the situation that led to Florida's fire management statutes, and provide an overview of the 1977 and 1990 statutes and the 1999 changes to the 1990 Prescribed Burning Act that significantly strengthen the law. The State of Florida passed landmark legislation in 1990 to protect responsible burners from civil liability with one goal in mind: to increase the number of acres treated with prescribed fire. The reason for introducing this bill was the clear message coming from the land management community that "burning the land was too risky," not because of potential fire control problems, but because of potential smoke management problems that were beyond the control of the burner. During a Florida land manager's conference on prescribed burning issues held January 1999, the four most common reasons cited by land managers for not using prescribed fire pertained to liability. The 1990 Prescribed Burning Act has been nationally recognized as landmark legislation protecting a landowner's right to use fire as a management tool. In the wake of the disastrous 1998 fire season in Florida, which was partially blamed on abnormal fuel accumulations, the Florida legislature modified this law so that a prescribed burner cannot be found civilly liable unless a court demonstrates that the burner was "grossly negligent." This unprecedented modification is a huge step in protecting the right to prescription burn in Florida.

Keywords: fire prevention, Florida, liability, negligence, prescribed fire, wildfire

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Brenner, Jim; Wade, Dale 2003. Florida''s Revised Prescribed Fire Law: Protection For Responsible Burners. Pages 132-136 in K.E.M. Galley, R.C. Klinger, and N.G. Sugihara (eds.). Proceedings of Fire Conference 2000: The First National Congress on Fire Ecology, Prevention, and Management. Miscellaneous Publication No. 13, Tall Timbers Research Station, Tallahassee, FL.

 


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