2,500 Acres Engulfed: Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge Wildfire Sparks Concerns

May 29, 2024
2 mins read
A lightning caused fire is currently burning in the Peacocks Pocket impoundment. The fire is estimated to be 150-200 acres. Photo Credit:Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
A lightning caused fire is currently burning in the Peacocks Pocket impoundment. The fire is estimated to be 150-200 acres. Photo Credit:Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

The roads reopened on Monday after a fast-moving forest fire ravaged the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge over the weekend. Authorities believe lightning sparked the fire, which quickly grew from a few hundred acres to over 2,000. It primarily burned near the Peacock Pocket marshes.

The fire broke out on Saturday during a severe storm. Since it happened so rapidly, people witnessing the bright orange sky engulfed in flames were worried.

Officials from the Fish and Wildlife Service said the fire started at around 150 acres and expanded to 2,500 acres over the weekend. On Monday, the refuge announced that the fire was expected to extinguish itself. “It was just an incredible sight,” said a witness who recorded the moment lightning struck the reserve.

Concerns about the animals left in the refuge were widespread. The Fish and Wildlife Service indicates that the last time this area burned was about three years ago, and the unexpected fire occurred in an area with lots of overgrown brush. On Monday, freshly burned ground could still be seen smoking in some areas, but access to West Gator, East Gator, and Catfish Creek finally reopened as the fire is under control. 

The Kennedy Space Center shares land with the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Fortunately, neither of these facilities was threatened during this fire. No one was injured, and no property was lost in the fire. The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge stated in a FB post, “The fire remained contained within the boundary of the impoundment and it is estimated at around 2,500 acres.” Closed roads were expected to reopen at some point on Monday. 

The forest fire burns in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, sent plumes of smoke into the air. Earlier,  the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge’s Facebook post stated that, the fire was reportedly caused by lightning after severe storms passed through the area on Saturday afternoon. It is estimated to be between 150 and 200 acres. The fire burns within Peacocks Pocket. Several access roads are closed due to the fire and firefighting teams monitoring the blaze, including West Gator Creek, Gator Creek East Gator Creek, and Catfish Creek roads.

On Saturday afternoon in Brevard County, the National Weather Service issued a severe storm warning that ended at 5:15 p.m. Merritt Island was among the areas affected by the alert.

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The 140,000-acre refuge was established in 1963 to protect migratory birds. It is home to over 1,500 species of plants and wildlife, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A total of 358 bird species and 140 species of freshwater and saltwater fish live in the refuge, according to the website, including 15 threatened or endangered species.

Due to dry conditions, Brevard County issued a burning ban on May 8. The ban prohibits bonfires, campfires, burning of waste, and other open fires due to the ongoing risk of forest fires.

Govind Tekale

Embarking on a new journey post-retirement, Govind, once a dedicated teacher, has transformed his enduring passion for current affairs and general knowledge into a conduit for expression through writing. His historical love affair with reading, which borders on addiction, has evolved into a medium to articulate his thoughts and disseminate vital information. Govind pens down his insights on a myriad of crucial topics, including the environment, wildlife, energy, sustainability, and health, weaving through every aspect that is quintessential for both our existence and that of our planet. His writings not only mirror his profound understanding and curiosity but also serve as a valuable resource, offering a deep dive into issues that are critical to our collective future and well-being.

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