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Prescribed burns reduce combustible fuel sources in woodlands

The Fort Director of Public Works Natural Resources Staff prepares to burn last year. (Army photo)

The Fort Director of Public Works Natural Resources Staff prepares to burn last year. (Army photo)

Published: February 25, 2016

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (Feb. 25, 2016) -- Using prescription fire in Fort Rucker’s forestlands is the most economical and beneficial tool in the land manager’s tool box.

Managed fire or prescribed fire is normally applied to the upland pine forests during the cool season months as a means of reducing years of accumulated combustible fuel. If this buildup of combustible fuel were to become ignited during a period of drought or high wind, the resulting damage to the standing forest could be very high.

However, through planning a managed fire, these fuels can be removed or reduced without any damage at all to the standing forest. In fact, the benefits obtained from a prescribed cool season burn on the upland pine ridges are numerous.

In addition to removing the threat of wildfire, the prescription fire stimulates an entirely new ecosystem of plants, legumes and native grasses to rapidly emerge, which provides tremendous benefits to all wildlife species.

The DPW Natural Resources staff normally begins using cool season prescribed burns on installation lands during December and continues the burning program until May. During this time, each burn action is precisely planned to reduce the impacts of smoke to all residents and installation neighbors.

The prescribed burning program also opens the understory of the existing forests, which benefits Soldiers who require continuous accessibility. Invasive plant species, such as as Privet and Yaupon, are common in our area and these invasive plants can contaminate a beautiful forest in a very short period of time; however, the routine use of prescription burning every three to four years keeps the post’s training lands open and accessible for training operations and hunters.

Because of the potential impact of smoke on Aviation training, the natural resources staff coordinates all planned burning actions with air space management, range division, all local civilian communities and all resident training operations.

Planned burns on the installation normally consisting of 100-400 acres in size are common throughout the cool season months. Although smoke may be a temporary concern for some, efforts to minimize the impacts are routine and the benefits of burning installation forestlands are many.

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