Prescribed burns to take place

Published 9:02 am Friday, October 27, 2017

Soon, the Wayne National Forest will be doing planned fires to help maintain healthy oak forests.

“Fire rejuvenates the forest. It increases nutrient availability, favors some plants over others, and can remove some of the leaf litter and smaller trees and brush. This lets more sunlight into the forest floor, which is important for regenerating oak trees, the dominant tree in Ohio forests, and many sun-loving plants,” said Ironton District Ranger Tim Slone.

Starting Oct. 30 and ending on Dec. 31, professional firefighters will set fires intentionally and then oversee the burning in the Ironton Ranger District. Areas include 300 acres around Lake Vesuvius recreation area, 230 acres in Handley Branch in Symmes Township in the vicinity of County Road 4, and 1,267 acres in Aid Township in the vicinity of County Road 19.

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The Wayne National Forest has a total of 244,000 acres.

Slone said the prescribed fires are performed under specific weather conditions and are designed to mimic fire that historically occurred on the forest. He added the Wayne National Forest follows strict guidelines for conducting prescribed burns, and uses environmental factors including temperature, humidity, atmosphere stability, wind-direction and speed as well as smoke disbursement. If any of these conditions are not within limits, the burns will be postponed.

There are many purposes for the fires, including encouraging the growth of a diverse array of plant life, including sun-loving plants and grasses. The rangers also want to ensure that oaks remain the keystone species in the forests since that species of trees provide food for about 100 different animals. Slone said using fire to bring light into the forests helps oaks grow and that without fire, shade-tolerant species will take over and eventually replace oak as the dominant species in Wayne National Foreset.

The prescribed fires also protect human property by reducing the amount of down, dead wood in the forest. That way if a wildfire happens, it would be less intense, and potentially easier to control.

They also want to perpetuate oak barrens and woodlands found within the forest. These remnant plant communities provide habitat for several early-successional species, Slone said, adding that maintaining the open woodland conditions with prescribed fire increases biodiversity in both plant and animal species.

You can view maps and the progress of the prescribed burns online by visiting .

The Wayne National Forest is one of 154 national forests nationwide and the only national forest in Ohio.