|Prescribed burning outlined|
|Written by Holyoke Enterprise|
Last week the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) held a prescribed burn workshop in Holyoke. The training was offered to NRCS staff, local volunteer fire departments and others who were seeking training to design burn plans in order to conduct prescribed burns on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands.
The training revolved around fire behavior, fire effects, developing burn plans and safety precautions. Thursday, March 8, weather conditions were favorable for a prescribed fire. Anyone looking toward Paoli couldn’t miss the activity, as good ventilation drew smoke upward which could be seen for miles.
A prescribed burn is not a controlled burn. There is no such thing as a controlled burn. Once the match is lit and the fuel ignites, the fire is out of control. The only control is the prescription one has made to burn under and the safety that is put into place well before the fire is lit.
A typical maintenance CRP burn calls for weather conditions where temperatures are less than 80 F, wind speeds less than 20 mph and relative humidity greater than 20 percent. These parameters can be modified somewhat but are in place to provide safety to people and property. Every burn needs to be planned extensively. The ultimate goal for prescribed fire is to light it, not fight it.
A range specialist ignites a portion of a field during a prescribed CRP burn near Paoli Thursday, March 8.
Firebreaks around CRP are extremely important. A 40-45 foot double disked line around the area to be burned is a must. This creates a safety zone to keep the fire where it needs to be kept and provides an area where crew members and equipment can stay out of harm’s way. Firebreaks should be installed the fall before a spring burn is initiated.
The planning process is very detailed and takes time to develop. The landowner is ultimately liable for any damages; therefore it is not something to be taken lightly by either the landowner or the planner. NRCS does not write burn plans for a landowner or operator. They write burn plans with the landowner or operator. Communication is critical throughout the entire process.
Prescribed burning is not new. It is a tool that has been around for centuries, dating back to the American Indians. In the future, the NRCS hopes to provide more planning opportunities for prescribed burns where the need exists.
Holyoke Enterprise March 15, 2012