Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Plowing Firebreaks and Planning for Prescribed Fire

A fireplow implement in use behind a farm tractor

With temperatures up and down regularly thus far this winter, it’s hard to forecast when it will be best to set prescribed fires in the woodlands. However, winter is still the correct time to use controlled burning, so land managers should go ahead and get ready. Plowing firebreaks and setting up burn plans should be coming to mind anytime after the holiday season.

Firebreaks are essential to establish before prescribed fire plans can be executed. Plowing firebreaks and the use of prescribed fire will keep woodlands not only healthy, but in a state that provides ease of use in future months. If young pine trees are at risk of damage next to a controlled burn area, simply double the width of the firebreak on that boundary. If you choose not to burn in hardwoods, then plow a firebreak in order to exclude fire from that area.   

Check the firebreaks the day before any burning for accumulation of excess leaves or pine needles that may need to be cleared. Having people on hand to help set the controlled fire and then to monitor the burn is essential. Cell phones make it easy to keep in communication on each side of the controlled burn area in order to watch for hot spots or unpredictable fire behavior.
Lastly, consider having others on site to help provide education to them about how to use prescribed fire and why it is a healthy tool for ecosystem management. I can remember my uncle taking me down to a property on the Combahee River years ago where he set fire with a drip torch, while I was directed to use a flapper to guard the fire line. That burn went like clockwork and like so many young folks before me, I was purposefully nudged towards becoming a future prescribed fire manager.

To view this feature story in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

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