JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Eight of California's largest ever wildfires have happened in the past year. Now, reports show those battling the fires are looking to Florida for solutions in wildfire prevention.
Florida leads the country in controlled burns to help prevent wildfires by getting rid of vegetation that could fuel a wildfire.
It may be wet and flat in Florida, but University of North Florida Assistant Director of Physical Facilities Landscaping and Grounds Will Smith knows that fire is nothing to mess around with.
"We have a major transportation corridor to our west," Smith said. "We have a major transportation corridor to our south, we have campus, we have residential, so we have to have perfect conditions to do prescribed burns out here because of the smoke."
Seventy percent of controlled burns are reportedly in the Southeast. Encouraging more of a culture around them, plus the programs and policies to support them, are part of why Western states are reportedly looking to Florida.
Wildfires out West are becoming more severe and fire season is lasting longer.
"We've taken a really proactive approach in getting that done because of what's happening," Smith said about wildfire prevention.
He says the university hasn't done a controlled burn for a few years and has switched to mowing, which is called firewise mowing.
"Four months ago all these palmettos were mowed to the ground," said Smith, pointing to some palmettos already about 2 feet tall. "We target high fuel areas so should a fire start, lightning, something like that, these areas will not get too hot."
Mowing doesn't return the nutrients to the ground like burning does, but for wildfire prevention, it gets the job done.
"We want to make sure it's safe for everyone to come out and enjoy nature," Smith said.
It's all about fueling a culture of controlled burns instead of fueling the wildfire.
Learn about Florida's certified prescribed burn manager training course here.