Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fires Set to Burn in Guana; 28 Homes Will Be Built in Midst of Burn Area

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fires Set to Burn in Guana; 28 Homes Will Be Built in Midst of Burn Area

Article excerpt

Byline: Christina Abel

State environmental officials said this week they plan to go ahead with plans to set fires in the Guana Preserve south of Ponte Vedra Beach even though a developer will proceed with plans to build 28 homes in the midst of the burn area.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection will set prescribed fires on about 150 acres from March to May in the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve to reduce the chance of wildfires and to restore beach wildlife habitats.

Guana officials said Wednesday they'll move forward with the burns in an area bounded by the Gate gas station to the north and the Beachside subdivision to the south, even though that's where developers and North Beach Engineering of Jacksonville are beginning to clear about 10 acres to construct the single-family homes. Though the building has not begun, some large equipment is on the land.

Forrest Penny, a Guana stewardship coordinator, said the developers and surrounding homeowners were told fires would be set in the area.

The fires, to be set west of Florida A1A in south Ponte Vedra Beach, are intended to control the spread of biomass, which includes forest and mill residues, agricultural crops and wastes, wood and wood wastes, animal wastes, livestock operation residues, aquatic plants and fast-growing trees and plants.

To prepare for the burns, contractors will mow vegetation in the area this month. That is expected to reduce the fires' heat and flames, said DEP spokeswoman Niki Pocock. Fire engines and personnel from the Guana Reserve, the state Division of Forestry and the St. Johns County Fire Department will be involved in the operation or standing by if needed.

In November, St. Johns County commissioners approved the 28 single-family units to be built as part of the North Pointe at Ponte Vedra. …

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