Burn, baby, burn: fire prescribed for portion of base

Burn, baby, burn:fire prescribed for portion of base

6 February 2007

published by www.mineralwellsindex.com

Texas, USA — While fire is often seen as a destructive force ofnature, the Texas Forest Service and the Texas Army National Guard arepartnering up to conduct prescribed fires at three National Guard properties –including the Fort Wolters Training Site – to benefit the ecosystem and reducethe risk of fire danger.

According to a press release issued by the TFS, a planned, well-executedprescribed fire can improve many aspects of the landscape.

“Many of our landscapes and ecosystems in Texas were shaped by wildfire,”said Rich Gray, TFS’ urban wildland interface coordinator.

“Prescribed fires mimic the beneficial results of natural wildfire, withoutthe destruction that occurs when a wildfire burns too hotly through overgrownvegetation.

“When we burn under specific weather conditions and at the right time of year,we can remove invasive brush and weeds without harming more desirable vegetation.That not only improves the wildlife habitat, but it also reduces the amount ofvolatile vegetation that would make an uncontrolled wildfire burn hotter and bemore difficult to contain.”

Texas National Guard Natural Resource Specialist Kate Crosthwaite said they areaiming to conduct the prescribed burn either today or Wednesday, “weatherpermitting.”

In a phone interview Monday, she said it looked like they will be able to burntoday.

TFS’ Information Officer Traci Weaver explained that there are a variety offactors that are taken into account when performing a prescribed burn. Some ofthe elements that factor in include wind speeds, whether the relative humidityis too low or high and fuel moisture, among other things. In an e-mail,Crosthwaite explained that when fire is suppressed as it has in the 20th century,small patches of vegetation are not regularly renewed and suitable habitats forsome species are decreased.

At Fort Wolters, Crosthwaite estimated they will burn about 600 acres throughback burning and black lining and it would probably take most of the day.

The Fort Wolters Training Site isn’t the only location undergoing a prescribedburn in conjunction with the TFS. The Camp Bowie Training Site in Brownwood andthe Camp Swift Training Site in Bastrop County are also scheduled for prescribedburns.

The joining of the two agencies for the burnings is a first, according toCrosthwaite.

“The Texas Forest Service hasn’t [participated] in the past,” she noted.

According to TFS’ press release, the “cooperative agreement between the twoagencies provides [TFS] the opportunity to use Camp Swift in Bastrop County asthe home for its annual wildfire academy. In turn, [TFS] conducts fuel (hazardousvegetation) reduction on some of the TXARNG properties through prescribedfire.”

“This arrangement is beneficial to both agencies,” said Gray. “Camp Swiftprovides an ideal location for our training academy because students learn in anenvironment similar to a fire camp and they have ample opportunities for fieldexercises. [TFS] provides expertise in land management through prescribed firethat is outside the scope of training National Guard employees have available tothem.”

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