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Jekyll Island repairing fire breaks
Steps are being taken to maintain Jekyll Island's defenses against wildfires.

Workers for the Jekyll Island Authority, which operates the island state park, are repairing fire breaks adjacent to the Oleander Golf Course and are prepping for a controlled burn on the 10-acre wooded property Tuesday.

Ben Carswell, the island's conservation director, says the Georgia Forestry Commission and the National Fire Protection Association's Firewise Communities program have helped make essential fire-break maintenance possible.

"Vegetation naturally regenerates in the fire breaks, so they must be periodically re-cleared in order to maintain their effectiveness as a measure of protection for residential property in the event of wildfire," Carswell said.

"The fire breaks also function in the opposite direction - to protect the forest from fires that could ignite on residential property."

Maintaining fire breaks and conducting controlled burns are an important part of managing natural areas of Jekyll Island, said Eric Garvey, chief communications officer. They are elements included in the island's conservation plan adopted several years ago.

Carswell says controlled burning is a natural resource management tool.

"It can be used to maintain certain plant communities ... and may help control some invasive plant species," he said.

"With plentiful rain in recent months, conditions are good for low-intensity controlled burning."

With the forestry commission on Jekyll Island working with crews on fire break maintenance, Carswell said it's the perfect time to conduct a controlled burn.

"The location that we are planning to burn on the Oleander Golf Course offers a good opportunity to test the effects of fire on several different species of plants, including the invasive camphor tree," he said.

People may notice some smoke in the air around the island for up to a few days after the burn, Carswell said. Smoke density should be minimal with no impact on human health, Carswell said.

The burn will coincide with the closing of Oleander Golf Course for scheduled maintenance.

* Reporter Sarah Lundgren writes about education and other local topics. Contact her at, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 322.

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