Ecologist proposes landscape changes after Golden Gate Estates brush fire
GOLDEN GATE ESTATES, Fla. – Several groups in Golden Gate Estates are helping families affected by the fires. But a local ecologist hopes to make an even bigger change by preventing the fires before they even spark.
Kara Driscoll studies plants and animals for a living. Over the weekend, she said she felt helpless as she watched fire crews battle a brushfire on 14th Avenue Southeast.
“I don’t want to see people get hurt, I don’t want to see a tragedy like this happen again,” Driscoll said. “I think it’s incredibly brave that they’re out there working as hard as they are.”
By Monday, the fire was mostly contained. But Driscoll’s anxiety remained as she looked at a wooded lot near Immokalee Road and Randall Blvd, knowing she could get Deja Vu at any moment.
“A lot of these are overgrown, so what happens when somebody is driving and tosses a cigarette out of the window,” Driscoll said.
Now she is proposing a proactive solution to put together a team of volunteer biologists and landscapers that would work with rural Collier County homeowners. They would identify and remove plants that usually serve as fuel for wildfires. Driscoll said the team could be modeled after the North Florida Prescribed Burn Association.
“If we had a group of people going out clearing that brush out and keeping it down, the fire is much more likely to be less severe,” she said, “Anything that we can do to support the firefighters.”
Two other groups have shared that goal for over 20 years, the Greater Naples and North Collier Community Emergency Response Teams, also known as CERT. Over the years, the North Collier CERT has trained over 2,000 residents and has 200 active members.
Heather Mazurkiewicz, Public Information Officer for North Collier Fire Rescue District said “It’s that neighborhood or that community of people being able to really reach deep into the communities.” CERTs are licensed by FEMA to aid in local disaster recovery like COVID, hurricanes, and brush fires. Last weekend the North Collier team pushed information from first responders out to the community through email and social media.
“They support us every day. They’re here. They’re on call. They’re ready to come out and do whatever it takes to save our properties and our neighbor’s,” said Member, John Maguire.
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