Tis the Season for Prescribed Burns
by Ryan Reed
Natural Resource Program Specialist, Communications Section
DCNR Bureau of Forestry
Forest managers know that the spring season is not only the time for renewal in the forest, but also a time for potentially elevated fire danger. The Bureau of Forestry stands ready to suppress wildfires at a moment’s notice.
Ideal spring conditions for wildfires result from prevailing dryness of forest fuels. Sticks, leaves, and other brush dried by frequent spring winds and baked by the more intense rays of the springtime sun can be one ignition source away from becoming a blaze.
The combustible nature of spring forest fuels can also be used to our advantage, though. We can “fight fire with fire” by utilizing prescribed burns. People who have met rigorous training standards and are trusted to carry out prescribed burns are known as “burn bosses.” Burn bosses seek optimal conditions for initiating prescribed burns, accounting for wind speed and direction, humidity, and a host of other logistical considerations. A successful prescribed burn reduces forest fuel load and diminishes the odds of more severe fires in the future.
In addition to reducing fuel loads, prescribed burns are used in forest restoration and maintenance. Two examples of forest communities where prescribed burns help in their regeneration are the scrub oak-pitch pine and serpentine barrens communities. Both of these fire-dependent communities benefit from periodic fires by enabling seed dispersion from pinecones, reducing competition, and releasing nutrients into soil. Prescribed burns are also an effective method for managing grasslands that are critical habitat for bird species in decline, like the dickcissel and Henslow’s sparrow.
With more than half of the 20 state forest districts planning prescribed burns for 2021 and the potential for an active spring wildfire season, our staff will certainly be busy this spring.
For more information on prescribed fire and wildfire, please look here: