Controlled Burn in Shady Valley

Fire can benefit habitats. In 2012, we did a burn at the Dickey Preserve to decrease woody plants' encroachment into the native grasses and remove weed species.

An aerial view of the Dickey Preserve, showing the field to be burned in the cleared foreground area. Periodic controlled burns promote native grasses by killing invasive plants that compete with them.

This burn was done by the Shady Valley Volunteer Fire Department, supervised by Conservancy staff. Here firemen begin with a "back fire," which prevents fires from escaping into the surrounding forest.

Back fires are relatively easy to control since they spread slower and burn cooler than other types of controlled burn techniques.

The back fire continues. Note that the flames are moving toward the short grass on the right by design, rather than toward the long grass in the center, where the main burn will take place next.

Two firemen monitor the burn. Their oversight differentiates this fire from a wildfire. A wildfire, whether man-made or not, is out of human control. This burn was fully under it.

Smoke rises from the "head fire," a burn technique that uses the wind's force to spread flames to still unburned fuel sources. In this case, the head fire was used to burn the main field.

A head fire takes more expertise to control than a back fire, since it burns hotter and faster, but it can still be executed safely by a fire department or prescribed burn crew.

This is what the aftermath of the controlled burn looked like after it was put out the same afternoon it was begun.

Though the field looks desolate, native grasses sprouted just 10 days after the fire. By late June, this field was green with new grass.


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