Fire Management Officer talks about prescribed fire

In this video, the Fire Management Officer for the National Park Service’s Northern Great Plains Area, Eric Allen, talks about the benefits of prescribed fire. The seven NPS parks and monuments within that group are in South Dakota, Nebraska, and Wyoming.

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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.

3 thoughts on “Fire Management Officer talks about prescribed fire”

  1. Actually have a bit of experience with prairie grass. It absolutely does better with regular burning, about every two years or so. The scrappy volunteer plants tend to be those awful spiky trees that are hard to get rid of. Also, without burning, the nasty weeds – with spikes and thorns will take over. Been trying to recover a pasture after two decades of neglect – the edible ‘sweet’ grasses lost ground every year. The animals grazed them and avoided the weeds, so the grasses and clover were over-grazed while the noxious stuff gained area year after year. Not possible to burn now safely due to nearby houses, so it’s very labor-intensive pulling and plowing into the dirt before the weeds go to seed. The entire region has that problem – the weeds and thorny trees have taken over from the better plants.
    Never heard of foxtails until ten years ago – and every year everyone says they’re worse. Everyone has a dog or pet that’s been operated on or lost due to them. They come up deceivingly like nice green grass, then dry and look like a wheat field and their dry seed heads fall to the ground and pile up like low snowdrifts. Those get caught in animal fur and inexorably, slowly puncture the skin and because they’re tiny barbed, they keep penetrating through the muscle to the lungs or heart. Hard to believe just to look at them that they can do such damage. Fire would easily destroy the dry stands and seed piles on the ground, but with the way the stuff is infesting neighborhoods, it’s not feasible to safely burn any of it at this point without huge fire department attention and resources. Terrible situation that could have been controlled with sensible burns years ago before too many residences were put up. 🙁

    1. Right below this video /text is the Headline –“escaped prescribed fire burns 800 acres in No. CAROLINA “—Unfortunately due to mis-management and unpredictable weather conditions [ heat /winds], the Prescribed burns too often get out of control,and then cause property damage and many $$$ to control .
    2. “LAND only deals with what it’s given” [from video] . Land was never GIVEN prescribed burns! .Small controllable natural fires [e.g. lightning caused] are one thing ,however prescribed burning should only be used very cautiously .

    1. Perhaps a couple fallacies in the statement above. First, the overwhelming majority of rx fire occurs with no escape or property damage, via careful monitoring of weather and fuels conditions, smoke dispersal (all reasonably predictable with modern tools), good planning, and so forth. But, like a crooked cop or a pervert priest, a small number of bad ones can cause folks to think ill of the overwhelming majority who serve faithfully for years. Second, it is a mistake to think that natural fires just occur when weather is mild. In fact, in many areas, natural fires would have rapidly become major conflagrations before we tried to “fix” nature by putting them all out. Lightning on a dry August day will cause a much more intense fire, with more plant mortality and far more particulates into the atmosphere than a properly planned and conducted prescribed ever would.
      The last statement though, all professional fire practitioners would agree on – prescribed fire should only be used very cautiously. Most do so on every fire.


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