Prescribed Fire in a Management Plan

Fire from lightning and human beings has been crucial to the prehistoric landscapes of North America. Many prairie plants, including some trees (notably, the bur oak) are resilient to fire. Leeward Solutions coordinates the use of fire with other agencies and consultants, along with crews. Contact me for more information about the effects of fire, managing landscapes with controlled burns, and incorporation of fire into your overall effort.

Controlled ecosystem burning requires considerable planning before the day of the burn. Planning involves:

Use of Flapper and Appropriate Clothing on a Burn Head

  • establishment of fire breaks, to prevent an escape and a wildfire.

  • assembling of proper equipment: vehicles, water tanks, sprayers, protective gear, drip torches, shovels, flappers, and emergency first aid kits.

  • anticipation of weather conditions, including the likelihood of a canceled or postponed burn if wind speeds are too high or too low, humidity will be too low (or so high as to dampen an effective burn).

  • awareness of existing biodiversity so that animal life (especially less common invertegrates) are allowed unburned areas or refugia.

  • training and physical abilities of participants, whether through formal fire courses or experience, or both.

  • emergency procedures in the event of a wildfire or trapping of crew members.

  • siting of ignition points to take advantage of landforms, wind direction, and other general conditions, without creating the potential for dangerous wildfires or the spread of sparks outside the burn area.

On the actual day of a burn,

Advancing Burn Line

  • fire breaks should have been maintained,

  • equipment should be in working order,

  • water tanks should be full,

  • field measurement of humidity and wind speed should be evaluated (and at periods throughout the burn),

  • protections for refugia should be in place,

  • crew members should know where emergency supplies are,

  • each team (ideally each person) should have a working communication device set to the correct channel or with appropriate phone numbers,

  • crew members should know the general routes of travel with respect to setting the burn head (the downwind burn line) and the back fire (the upwind burn line),

  • and procedures for checking the area several hours after the burn should be in place, especially for wooded areas that have dead trees, in order to prevent accidental fires.

The logistics for a prescribed burn are complex. Safety precautions are essential, and respect for downwind recipients of the smoke is vital. While agricultural burning in Iowa is not subject to regulation, burning in incorporated cities and towns is. Polk County requires an application prior to conduct of burn, although recent changes to requirements make ecosystem burning less costly and more straightforward.

Leeward Solutions can help organize these logistics by walking a piece of land with you and thinking about how fire is likely to act under appropriate burn conditions. You will want to evaluate your current equipment and your equipment needs, and the size and composition of your crew. Potential refugia and larger unburned areas should be assessed, based on your knowledge of the life forms or on inventories of animal and plant life that Leeward is equipped to conduct.

For more information, send an inquiry to set up an initial consultation, using the Contact Leeward page.


Resources

Web Sites:

Tallgrass Prairie & Oak Savanna Fire Science Consortium

The Nature Conservancy: Fire & Landscapes

US Fish & Wildlife Service: Fire Management

Books:

John Weir, Conducting Prescribed Fires: A

Comprehensive Manual, 2009, Texas A&M University.

Sara Jensen, Living with Fire: Fire Ecology and Policy for the Twenty-First Century, 2008, University of California Press.

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