WNF to have prescribed burn planned

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 29, 2021

This fall, the Wayne National Forest is planning prescribed fires in two areas totaling up to 1,179 acres. In the Ironton Ranger District, the burn will include approximately two acres in Fradd Hollow. A specific date hasn’t been set yet, but it will be done sometime before Dec. 31.

Prescribed burns are intentional fires that are managed by professional wildland firefighters.

“When the right weather conditions are present, prescribed burns help us encourage healthy oak-dominated forests. Oak species are essential to the ecosystem of southeast Ohio and the Appalachian foothills region,” said forest supervisor Carrie Gilbert.

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Oak-dominated forests are fire-tolerant, and periodic, low-intensity prescribed burns help oak trees outcompete other species such as maple and beech, which thrive in shade and are becoming increasingly more common. Oak ecosystems provide critical food and 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.

“Aerial ignition is one of many tools available to us while conducting prescribed burns. This innovative practice reduces risk for our firefighters and allows us to work at an increased pace,” said Gilbert. “Please be aware that prescribed burns may temporarily result in large smoke columns, but there is no need for alarm and the smoke will dissipate quickly.’

During prescribed fire operations, a Temporary Flight Restriction will be established over the burn area to protect aircraft performing official work duties. All unauthorized aircraft, including drones, will be prohibited from flying over the area during those times, as they can interfere with authorized air support operations.

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 accomplish several goals:

• Encourage the growth of a diverse array of plant life, including sun-loving plants, grasses and young oaks by promoting and perpetuating canopy disturbance events.

• Advance reproduction of desired tree species and ensure oaks remain the keystone species in our forests. Without fire, shade-tolerant species will take over and eventually replace oak as the dominant species in our forest. Oaks provide food for many different animals. Fire helps to promote uneven aged forest diversity which benefits wildlife.

• 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.

• Perpetuate oak barrens and woodlands to provide habitat for several early successional species. Maintaining these open woodland conditions with prescribed fire increases biodiversity in both plant and animal species, and enhances scenic beauty.

• Conserve fire-adapted plant and animal biodiversity and increase vigor of overcrowded forest to resist insect and disease.