Stephen McCullers, A Dangerous Servant and a Fearful Master: Why Florida’s Prescribed Fire Statute Should be Amended

65 Fla. L. Rev. 587 (2013) |

McCullers StephenFire will not be denied its opportunity to burn through Florida’s forests. The citizens of Florida, however, can accept the responsibility of deciding how the forest will burn. Fire can be purposefully ignited under exact weather conditions, acting as a controlled but dangerous servant with a slim chance of escape or harm. Or, if Floridians refuse to accept any responsibility in proactively managing forest fire, nature will determine when the forest will burn. The fire will be a fearful master, raging through the forest with the potential to cause great harm to people, property, and the environment.

In recognition of the important role that the intentional use of fire has in reducing wildfire hazard, not to mention its important ecological and economic functions, the Florida legislature enacted laws protecting fire practitioners from liability. These laws protect practitioners from liability as long as they are not grossly negligent in conducting the fire and meet certain requirements. Although this law is extremely important to fire practitioners, it can be interpreted as providing no protection if a legally set fire unexpectedly escapes and causes harm. This has the effect of discouraging landowners from conducting fire operations. This Note argues that, in order to encourage the men and women who are willing to accept the challenge of using intentional fire to reduce wildfire risk, the prescribed fire statute should be amended.

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