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WNF will have three planned fires: Depending on the weather, could start next week

PEDRO — Starting Monday and through the end of May, Wayne National Forest is planning to have prescribed fires in three areas totaling up to 628 acres. The planned burn areas are located on the Wayne’s Ironton Ranger District, near the Pine Creek area.

Prescribed burns are planned fires that are overseen by professional firefighters.

“Fire helps promote oak trees,” said Ironton District Ranger Tim Slone. “That’s why we use prescribed burns as one method to support vigorous oak-dominated forests across southeast Ohio.” This forest type is fire-tolerant, and occasional prescribed fires help oaks outcompete shade-tolerant species of trees like maple and beech. Oak-dominated forests provide critical habitat to a variety of wildlife species.

Depending on weather and landscape conditions, fire crews may use traditional ground-based or aerial ignition methods to conduct prescribed burns. Aerial ignition involves the use of a Plastic Sphere Dispenser machine mounted in a helicopter to drop ignition spheres onto a targeted area.

“When conditions are right, we prefer to use aerial ignition for a couple of reasons,” said Slone. “Several days’ worth of ground-based prescribed burning can be accomplished in just a

few hours. We can also take advantage of short windows of opportunity when weather conditions permit these techniques.”

Slone emphasized that the concern for safety will extend to all aspects of the operation. If it is initiated with aerial ignition, a broad area will be treated with prescribed fire during a short time.

“Because of this,” Slone stressed, “the public should know that a large smoke column could be created, but residents should not be alarmed.”

Summary details about the planned prescribed burns are as follows:

• Pine Creek Unit F prescribed burn: Approximately 281 acres in Decatur Township, in the vicinity of Howard Ridge.

• Pine Creek Unit G prescribed burn:  Approximately 342 acres in Decatur Township, in the vicinity of Howard Ridge.

  Fradd Hollow prescribed burn: Approximately 5 acres in Lawrence Township, in the vicinity of Fradd Hollow.

Prescribed fires are performed under specific weather conditions. The Wayne National Forest follows strict guidelines for conducting prescribed burns, and uses environmental factors including temperature, humidity, atmosphere stability, wind direction, wind speed and smoke dispersion. If any of these conditions are not within limits, the burns will be postponed.

Through the use of prescribed fire, the Wayne National Forest hopes to encourage the growth of a diverse array of plant life, including sun-loving plants and grasses, ensure oaks remain the keystone species in the forests because oaks provide food for many different animals and using fire to bring light into the forests helps oaks grow. Without fire, shade-tolerant species will take over and eventually replace oak as the dominant species in the forest.

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.

It also perpetuates oak barrens and woodlands found within the forest. These remnant plant communities provide habitat for several early successional species. Maintaining these open woodland conditions with prescribed fire increases biodiversity in both plant and animal species.