By Brad Stager
Residents visiting the Lithia and Picnic communities around the C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir may notice the fragrance of burning vegetation and possibly visible smoke from now through March 2022.
That’s because the region’s dry season is not only the time for wildfires to ignite but also when Tampa Bay Water conducts prescribed, controlled burns on land it is responsible for to mitigate the risk of an out-of-control blaze.
The burns will be conducted on reservoir property east of Hobson Simmons Rd., south of Boyette Rd., southeast of Browning Rd. and west of County Rd. 39.
Protocols for prescribed burns require the presence of trained firefighting crews wearing protective clothing with emergency equipment on hand and ready to use if needed.
Removing nuisance and invasive plant species while promoting an environment conducive to the growth of native species are among the benefits cited, as is reducing overall potential wildfire severity by removing excess amounts of flammable vegetation.
According to Brandon Moore, public communications manager for Tampa Bay Water, the ultimate goal of the burns is to preserve and protect the area’s conservation interests and safety of local residents.
“Prescribed burns can reduce the risk from wildfires to nearby properties,” he wrote in an email. “Burns also help to promote plant diversity, improve wildlife habitat and remove invasive plant species and diseased plants, which benefits our environment.”
The burns will be conducted intermittently and only when weather conditions permit doing so. Effort will be made to minimize the impact to surrounding roads and neighborhoods, but residents and drivers are encouraged to exercise caution if they encounter smoke and reduced visibility.
The reservoir, which has a storage capacity of 15.5 billion gallons of water, is an important part of the utility’s operations in providing drinking water to 2.5 million customers in the Tampa Bay area.
During the West Central Florida region’s rainy season (May 25 to October 10, according to the National Weather Service), the reservoir stores water collected from the Hillsborough and Alafia Rivers, as well as the Tampa Bypass Canal. This water is then available during the dryer months.
You can find out more information about Tampa Bay Water by visiting www.tampabaywater.org online.