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Safe forest fire

PEDRO — Flames inched across the ground as smoke swirled up to the sky. All that could be heard was the crackle of the fire as Wayne National Forest officials set the third controlled burn of the season.

This was the scene that Wayne National Forest officials created with their prescribed burn in the Darby Creek area on Tuesday. The burn covered about 480 acres of land.

“The general purpose of this prescribed burn is to regenerate oak-hickory forests,” Tim Slone, Ironton district ranger, said. “Oak-hickory forests are fire dependent, meaning occasional burning helps them out compete other species of trees such as Red Maple.”

Wildlife species such as squirrel, deer and turkey rely heavily on oak-hickory forest.

“Due to the lack of fire and heat, the oak-hickory is being dominated by the taller, shaded species,” said Jonathan Olsen, forest fire management officer. “Our low intensity fire will help knock out the shade species. They are not adapted to the heat like the oak-hickory.”

There were 26 people working on the burn, all are employees of the Wayne National Forest.

“Their primary jobs are to be specialist in their fields but during burn season, they are called to duty if we need them and we usually do,” said Gary Chancey, public affairs staff officer. “ It’s great that we have employees that are cross-trained in the fire management field so that we can use them. Hats off to them because they want to do this.”

Burn season typically takes place in the spring and fall. There is a lot of preparation that takes place before a burn is schedule and performed.

“We do a lot of prep work,” Olsen said. “We go in and we prep all of our lines. We clear all of the lines out. The next thing is the weather pattern; we watch the weather closely. We burn when there is low wind tolerance. So the wind won’t push the fire causing it to get away from us. We also have to have the humidity in a certain range and the temperature in a certain range. We make sure it’s not on the extreme end when it would be more likely for a wildfire to occur. That enables us to control it a little better and keep it where we want it.”

The Wayne National Forest has never had a prescribed burn get out of control.

The burn is completed in one day but officials observe the area for several days until they feel the area is safe.