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Controlled burn clears 650 acres in WNF

DECATUR TOWNSHIP — It may have happened more than six years ago, but the ice storm of 2003 is still leaving its mark on Lawrence County woodlands. Tuesday, Wayne National Forest officials made an effort to erase that mark with a controlled burn in the Telegraph Ridge area of Decatur Township. It affected more than 650 acres of targeted 1,000 acres. Its purpose was to clean down tree limbs and other debris that is not only obstructive and unsightly but dangerous.

“Probably the biggest point was to remove the ice storm damage that affected the area greatly,” Wayne National Forest Public Information Officer Gary Chancey said. “You remember that we had the timber sale. Now we’re coming back and doing a prescribed burn. This rids the area of fuels on the forest floor that can be fuel for wildfires.”

The burn involved more than 25 people, including a group of firefighters from a national forest in Michigan. It also employed for the first time a device that is meant to make such burns safer for firefighters. The device uses small balls of ignition material that are shot into the targeted area from several feet away. This reduces or eliminates the need for a firefighter to go into the targeted area and actually set the fire.

The prescribed burn has another purpose as well. By burning off unwanted and non-indigenous plants and trees, the forest is better able to regenerate the desired oak and hickory trees forest officials prefer to dominate the landscape.