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Controlled burn on Egmont Key sends smoke over Manatee

MANATEE — Smoke lingering over Manatee County this evening is believed to be from a controlled burn on Egmont Key.

A Florida Division of Forestry official said a contractor with U.S. Fish and Wildlife is burning 150 acres of grassy areas on Egmont Key today at the mouth of Tampa Bay.

Calm weather, said Patrick Mahoney, has allowed the smoke to cling to the surface and move slowly in a northwest direction from the island.

“The smoke is not dispersing,” said Mahoney, a wildlife mitigation specialist with Forestry.

He said there were no other reports of fires or controlled burns on Friday.

The burning on Egmont Key began on Thursday as Fish and Wildlife began torching non-native grasses as a hazard to the natural ecosystem, Mahoney said. Some 25 acres was burned on Thursday.

The permitted fire-setting was to continue Saturday and Sunday.

Egmont Key is a three-mile long island where Tampa Bay flows into the Gulf of Mexico. Its beaches are popular spots in warm months for sunbathers and picnickers. The island is reached by boat.