Tombstones in the sky

Ten months ago a wildfire swept through the northeast corner of Big Cypress Nat’l Preserve, burning in total over 20 square miles.



Fire may look destructive,

But to the swamps it is as natural as water.

No well respecting slash pine is without charred bark on its trunk …

Just as a tall cypress without a water line at knee height doesn’t look quite right.

Fires reset the pinelands, prairies, and marsh back to square one in a similar way, but on a longer time scale, that the recent El Nino rains rewound the winter water cycle clock back to fall.

Fire and water balance each other out.

The same clouds that bring the lightning eventually douses the flames – no matter how far spread – with rain. Water on the ground – in the cypress – also forms a natural fire break.

But it’s a balance that can break during a deep spring drought,

Setting the stage for fire to invade deep into the cypress,

Or burn “too hot” or for too long.

That’s what happened during the drought year wildfires a few years back … 2001 if I am not mistaken.

Tall tombstones mark the spot where slash pines once stood.

Normally they are the swamps most fire-resistant tree.

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