Help! Fire!

On November 26, 2012, some of our neighbors were probably terrified to see flames and smoke on the big meadow near Mahan Manor. It’s OK, we told all who called. We are doing a controlled burn. What? Most people hear the word “fire” and assume it is a wildfire like those in California which destroy hundreds of thousands of acres, including homes, but that isn’t always so. “Wildfire” is the term applied to any unwanted, unplanned, damaging fire burning in forest, shrub or grass and is one of the most powerful natural forces known to people. While sometimes caused by lightning, nine out of ten wildfires are human-caused.

Why has the number of acres burned remained high over the last few years? Many factors are involved and include:

  1. Past fire suppression policies which allowed for the accumulation of fuel in the form of fallen leaves, branches, and excessive plant overgrowth in forest and wildland areas.
  2. Increasingly dry, hot weather.
  3. Changing weather patterns across the US.
  4. Increased residential development in the wildland/urban interface.

Natural fires are considered nature’s housekeepers, by removing brush, leaves and needles that provide fuel to burn. By reintroducing fire into fire dependent ecosystems in a controlled setting, we can recreate the effects of natural fire, give balance back to fire-dependent communities, and prevent the catastrophic losses of uncontrolled, unwanted wildfire. Fire teams can use controlled burns/prescribed fires when and where doing so will safely reduce the amount of fuel for fires. Fire teams can also decide to allow lightning caused fires to continue to burn in areas that will not affect the safety of people while reducing fuels. As one of the most important natural agents of change, fire plays a vital role in maintaining certain ecosystems. Prescribed fire reintroduces the beneficial effects of fire into an ecosystem, producing the kinds of vegetation and landscapes we want, and reducing the hazard of catastrophic wildfire caused by excessive fuel buildup.

Prescribed Fire, also known as a controlled burn, refers to the controlled application of fire by a team of fire experts under specified weather conditions that help restore health to fire-adapted environments. By safely reducing excessive amounts of brush, shrubs, and trees, encouraging the new growth of native vegetation, and maintaining the many plant and animal species whose habitats depend on periodic fire, prescribed burning helps reduce the catastrophic damage of wildfire on our lands and surrounding communities. Prescribed fire is one of the most effective tools we have in preventing the outbreak and spread of wildfires. But because prescribed fire is fire, fire management experts are extremely careful in planning and executing a prescribed fire.

The burned areas will start to green up again in an amazingly short time, and by next spring you will have to look closely to find evidence of a fire at all.  Remember Smokey’s ABCs: Always Be Careful with fire. Smokey wants people to be responsible when they use fire. Fire has many uses, and our maintenance staff is trained in the proper ways to use fire. It is still wrong and irresponsible to play with matches, leave fires unattended, throw lighted cigarettes away, or use equipment without proper spark arrestors.

Naturally yours,