WNF to have prescribed burns: Goal is to promote biodiversity, encourage growth of oak trees

Published 10:32 am Thursday, October 10, 2019

PEDRO — Starting next week, the Wayne National Forest will be having prescribed burns in an effort to promote plant diversity.

Acting Ironton District Ranger Pat Mercer said that 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,” he said. “This lets more sunlight into the forest floor, which is important for regenerating oak trees, the dominant tree in Ohio forests, as well as many other sun-loving plants.”

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Fall marks the beginning of WNF’s prescribed burn season, during which professional firefighters plan to burn up to 626 acres between Oct. 15 and Dec. 31.

There will be three areas in the Ironton Ranger District in Lawrence County that will undergo prescribed burns, including 281 acres in Decatur Township, near Howard Ridge; 342 acres in Decatur Township, near Howard Ridge; and three acres in Lawrence Township, near Fradd Hollow.

The goal of the prescribed burns is to encourage the growth of a diverse types of plant life, including sun-loving plants and grasses; protect human property by reducing the amount of dead and down wood in the forest that contributes fuel to wild fires and make sure that oaks remain the dominant trees in the WNF since fire brings light into forest to help the young oaks grow. Without fire, shade-tolerant species take over and eventually replace oak trees.

Prescribed fires are done under specific weather conditions and are designed to mimic fire that historically occurred on the forest.

The firefighters follows strict guidelines for conducting prescribed burns, and uses environmental factors including temperature, humidity, atmosphere stability, smoke dispersion, and wind direction and speed. If any of these conditions are not within limits, the burns will be postponed.

To learn more about prescribed burning on the Wayne, contact the Wayne National Forest Public Affairs Office at 740-753-0862.