Military base uses prescribed fire prior to removing unexploded ordinance

Fort Ord prescribed fire helitorch
Contractors burn vegetation at Fort Ord in the fall of 2009. Photo: Chris Prescott, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Fort Ord, an Army base south of Monterey, California, (map) was closed in 1994. Since then the Army has been restoring portions of the base to a more natural condition. One of their toughest challenges is finding and removing inert and live ordnance in the impact areas which are covered in dense stands of brush, or in this case, “central maritime chaparral”, or CMC.

The ordnance removal teams can’t easily find the unexploded bombs and shells unless the brush is removed. They considered cutting it, but decided that a prescribed fire is the most environmentally friendly method when dealing with one of the last remaining stands of CMC in the state.

Contractors have been doing some of the burning as well as the burn planning. Barry Callenberger, the Principal of Wildland Rx, has been involved in the project. Barry used to work for the U.S. Forest Service on the Cleveland and Eldorado National Forests and in the Regional Office in California, until moving to the private sector in 1997 to work for North Tree Fire before forming his own company.

At least one burn, 500 acres in the fall of 2009, has already been conducted, and the Army plans to continue burning about 800 acres a year on portions of a 6,800-acre area of CMC.

Since 2001, ordnance specialists have removed unexploded ordnance from nearly 2,500 acres, finding over 12,000 unexploded ordnance items and 89,000 pounds of munitions debris.

I wonder if anyone receives hazard pay while working on these prescribed fires?

Via @FireInfoGirl

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

2 thoughts on “Military base uses prescribed fire prior to removing unexploded ordinance”

  1. The military prescribed burns/fires that are done before ordnance detection activities are burning hazardous, toxic and radio-active wastes not just in the form of unexploded weapons, but more so in the form of previously exploded weapons that have been reduced to gases and dust, both of which pose more danger expecially when traveling out of the area in the smoke.
    Additionally, these so called cleanup activities are in violation of many laws, including the EPA Munitions Rule stating that no fired, buried (it’s a landfill underneath at Fort Ord)or disposed of shall be incinerated. Also the fires are in violation of the Resource, Conservation and Recovery Act, RCRA which governed hazardous waste from the cradle to the grave. Fact; The US EPA sold a waiver to the Army contractor at Fort Ord and the Dept. of Toxic Substance Control sold one for RCRA. Additionally, these burns kill the animals which live in Fort Ords’ twenty square miles of weapon ranges and the National Marine Sanctuary in Monterey Bay, including endangered species. As a matter of fact the October 2010 fire killed of the rest of the areas Monarch Butterflies and the paper blamed it on Global Warming when it happen right after the burns. Carmel Middle School also had a 180 students out of 500 fall ill the first day of one of the burns(can’t remember if it was Octobers or Novembers 2009) which fumigated the school right on target with the burn plan photo of smoke direction. These illnesses were blamed on a School party.
    One more thing; CERCLA the federal law over this base has not only protection of human health and the enviroment as a criteria, but also public acceptance. It’s no coincidene that the public acceptance list is 99% identical to the land recipient list for after the cleanup distribution. People should know that not everyone gets sick or falls down dead at first, some do, but most people and animals have post symptoms and suffer for a while first

  2. GS rx fire folks at Eglin AFB get H-pay for the numerous UXO areas there…they earn every penny between the craters, snakes, and hanging vines!


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