Egmont Key burn postponed

- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Fire Management Division was planning a 100-acre prescribed burn at Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge starting today, but it has been postponed due to a poor weather outlook.

Last July, lightning sparked a large fire on the 250-acre island.  Flames consumed 70 acres and threatened the state park and pilot harbor station before fire crews got the blaze under control.

This year, wildlife officials hope to get ahead of Mother Nature on the remote island.

"Now, under more favorable conditions for both wildlife and the general public, an additional 100 acres of the island will be ignited, creating improved habitat and a safer environment for all who utilize the island," a USFWS statement explained.

Egmont Key lies next to the key shipping channel at the mouth of Tampa Bay and, even though it is accessible only by boat, is a popular tourist destination because of its pristine beaches, wildlife, and historic ruins. The state park contains the remnants of Fort Dade, a Spanish-American War-era fort and town.

The burn was expected to last for two days, but with storms in the forecast for Wednesday into Thursday, it will have to wait. 

If the burn does not happen soon, the next opportunity may not be until this fall because shore birds will begin nesting, USFWS says.

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