Big Cypress wildfire burning across 3,000 acres. That’s not necessarily a bad thing

Firefighters on Monday continued battling a wildfire in the Big Cypress National Preserve that started on 60 acres Sunday and quickly spread across at least 3,300 acres of cypress, grasses and pine rockland.

The blaze, named the Parliament Fire, started in an area targeted by park officials for a prescribed fire. That means as long as it’s contained, the fire will help the swamp, preserve spokeswoman Ardrianna McLane said.

It’s actually a positive as long as we can contain it.

Big Cypress National Preserve spokeswoman Ardrianna McLane

“It’s on a nice mixture now of grass and pinelands,” she said. “So it’s actually a positive as long as we can contain it.”

The Everglades thrive when seasonal fires occur. They keep canopies in pine rocklands open and airy, weed out sawgrasses so water can flow more easily and kill invasive plants that don’t possess the fire tolerance of native species. Land managers regularly burn forests in prescribed fires.

But drought conditions that parched the state this winter, when temperatures hovered above average, have limited the number of prescribed fires conducted. Officials worry that last year’s unusually wet El Niño weather pattern also boosted the growth of more brush and other plants that could provide fuel for fires.

Earlier this month, a 7,500-acre fire in the Picayune Strand State Forest shut down part of Alligator Alley and prompted state officials to warn residents to be extra alert and get ready for what could be a busier than usual wildfire season.

More than 35,000 acres

The amount of land burned by wildfires so far this year

As of March 12, nearly 900 fires had occurred statewide, burning more than 35,000 acres.

The Big Cypress Preserve’s borders are bigger than the state of Rhode Island, and fighting fires in its remote parts can be tricky. Officials are using both ground and air forces, McLane said. By 9:30 p.m. Sunday, the fire had consumed 3,300 acres in rough terrain mostly far from park roads. An aerial survey will be repeated today to provide an update on the fire size, she said. Park officials also closed some trails and parking areas due to the fire.

“The major focus is visitor safety and protecting key resources,” McLane said.