USA — U.S. Forest Service fire personnel have begunprescribed burns on the National Forests in East Texas and will continue theburns during the next few months.
Fire is an important component of the land management plan to reduce forestfuels and restore historic plant and animal habitats, USFS officials said.
“During the next few weeks, folks near the national forests may see ahelicopter overhead, smoke columns rising, additional traffic along ForestService roads, and occasionally, smoke settling in low lying areas at night,”according to Fire Management Officer Ron Haugen.
“We want communities to know what we’re doing when we conduct prescribedburns on the national forests. Our prescribed burns are controlled firesconducted by experienced, qualified personnel who work as a team to ignite,monitor and ensure that the fire stays within the control lines,” he said.
Some counties have declared burn bans, but these do not apply to the U.S.Forest Service. The Forest Service conducts prescribed burning only when weatherconditions are most favorable and fire personnel take into account weatherconditions and fire behavior before conducting a burn.
They work as team to monitor the burns and make sure the fire does not crossthe lines.
“Anytime there is a fire, there is going to be smoke associated with it,”Haugen said. “When there are low-lying concentrations of drift smoke,visibility may be reduced. Also, for those who have respiratory problems, werecommend they close windows and ventilate their homes by using the airconditioning or heating system. Some may want to leave the area until the smokeclears.”
If drivers encounter smoke on the road, they should reduce their speed anduse their low beam lights to become more visible to other traffic. In some areas,Forest Service fire personnel will be visiting property owners living closest tothe burn areas to explain safety procedures and the benefits of prescribed fire.
Prescribed fires not only reduce fuel accumulations that might attribute to acatastrophic wildfire, they reduce the height of shrubs and bring new plantgrowth back down within the reach of foraging deer. Fires ignited by lightningand Native Americans have occurred for centuries in East Texas and areresponsible for the “piney woods” so prevalent in our area today.Scientific studies reveal that naturally occurring fires may have spread acrosslarge expanses of East Texas as frequently as every one to three years.