Fire Festival organizers teach kids that not all forest fires are cause for alarm

09 October 2021

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Southeastern forestry, wildlife preservation, and agricultural organizations came together for the first Fire Festival in Effingham County on Saturday.

Susan French works with The Longleaf Alliance, an organization that promotes prescribed fires throughout The Southeast. She says the goal of this event is to help people understand why some fires are planned and why that is important.

“A lot of our native plants need that prescribed burning to start growing, and so you’re also promoting those plants,” said French. “And then a lot of our native species: deer, turkey, quale depend on those plants for food and cover, and so you’re creating that habitat for them.”

French said the controlled forest fires can also help prevent more dangerous fire situations.

“You’re getting rid of leaf litter on the ground and needle litter layer, so you’re reducing your wildfire risk. So that’s a great thing. Then, when lightning strikes, it can’t burn what you’ve already burnt.”

Charles McMillan, Georgia Conservancy Natural Resource Director, said the practice of prescribed burning is deeply rooted in Native American agriculture and it was integrated part of the rural farming culture for centuries.

“Burning at regular intervals has been part of our history for a long time,” McMillan said. “If it’s done in a controlled manner, it can be really safe”

According to McMillan, the practice drastically declined since the mid-1900s, when Smokey the bear first started telling kids that forest fires are bad.

But French said she hopes to show a new generation of kids that not all forest fires are cause for alarm and they can be done responsibly when firefighters or prescribed fire experts are on-site.

“We did a live demo burn,” said French. “People get to see it on the ground and realize it’s not necessarily what they’ve seen on TV before. The crazy, kind of raging wildfires. It’s a much different situation.”

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