To start this post I have to say, PLEASE DO NOT TRY THIS WITHOUT AN EXPERIENCED AND CERTIFIED PRESCRIBED FIRE MANAGER ON BOARD. I myself only participate under certified professionals which know a WHOLE LOT MORE about this than I do!
I became fascinated with all things “forest” related as a young girl; it’s how I grew up. We were so fortunate to have property surrounded by woodland that we as kids could romp around on! In fact we did so in shorts and flip flops during the SUMMER MONTHS in SOUTH CAROLINA which is something I WILL NOT do now!!! GAH! There is no telling how many snakes we probably almost stepped on…. I digress.
My daddy is a forester, heeding the life I lived as a child. And now, I’m married to a forester/ soil scientist! 🙂 One of my brothers is a forester, while the other was reared and trained in many areas forestry related too. My mother technically could be one for all the work she does with my daddy; and, I myself am a forester by degree. Granted, there are so many things I’ve probably forgotten since I’ve been out of the forest field for quite some time now, but I do enjoy every moment that takes me back! One of those being burning season!
And so today, my blog post is dedicated to explaining a lot of the pictures I post on social media that so many ask me about! 🙂 This may clear up a few things for some of you!
To start off, GREAT PRECAUTIONS MUST BE TAKEN when choosing to SET THE WOODS ON FIRE! I mean, who in their right mind would do such a thing, right?!?!!! Well… apparently I’m a part of a family that is a bunch of pyros. LOL But in all seriousness, first and foremost you have to obtain a permit from the state to do a prescribed burn AND have optimal weather conditions!!!!! And your location comes into play… whether there are homes close by that you risk smoking in… or roads that you don’t want to smoke in… SO many things to consider. You also MUST HAVE firebreaks around the ENTIRE tract of land you will be burning. This is accomplished by creating an exposed dirt line around the entire area by bulldozer, or making sure there is already an existing road in place.
Next you determine where your baseline will be lit based off of your weather readings. Wind being the key factor. I’ll explain why in a few. Here is my handsome hubby lighting the baselines of a couple of burns! 😀 Oh, and one photo of just him checking it all out. I just like to take pictures of him! lol Note the gravel road in the first picture acting as the firebreak.
And my daddy lighting a baseline…
Below is a a picture of an active baseline burning against a plowed firebreak. So remember I mentioned the wind being a key factor in determining where to start your burn (the baseline)?! This picture shows why. So the baseline was lit up against this plowed firebreak and with the wind blowing constantly from camera left, it pushes the flames back onto the already burned area, “the black”. This is key in your burn not running and becoming a “head fire” which is when the flames lay the other way… onto non-burned fuels. If that occurs, you have a SERIOUS problem on your hands! And most likely a WILDFIRE as opposed to a CONTROLLED BURN (prescribed burn). Keeping a burn under control also keeps things from burning toooooo hot. Having a present, constant direction wind also plays a roll in how hot your burn becomes as well; and affects the residual times that the flames are on one area of the soil. You do not want a prescribed burn to burn too hot on your fuels, or sit too long on your fuels, because you risk ruining your soil make-up– killing/scorching the organic layer of soil, the top soil. That is not a good thing because plants rely on that layer of soil heavily for their health!
Constant patrol of your baseline is a must! Since the wind is pushing this direction during the duration of the burn, it could also be pushing ashes across your firebreaks, which in turn could potentially create “spot overs” or wildfires on adjacent properties. Thus… the water tank on the four-wheeler here.
This fancy thing pictured here is called a drip torch. It is your main tool during a prescribed burn to ignite the fire. Unless of course you are doing aerial applications for burning MASSIVE tracts of land! Those are awesome to see! Check out the following linked videos for two different methods of aerial applications: the heli-torch and the ping-pong ball method (not sure that’s the technical term, but it’s what I’ve always heard it referred to as). The ignition tool actually looks like ping-pong balls as you can see here in this video, and contain certain chemicals inside of them that ignite after 40 seconds or so. Most of what I’m involved in though are simply ground applications using the drip torch.
Here is one of my brothers as he strips fire through the interior of the tract we are burning.
And here I am, yours truly. 😀 Once your baseline is established and burns in for a while, you can begin firing off the rest of the tract; but you must here again, keep in mind your weather conditions to know how far a spacing you can apply! You can see another line in front of me in the following picture. Note “the black” is in front of the line of fire in the background. I’m lighting the front line so as it burns back towards the black. Remember the wind here; it will be pushing the flames towards the back line and the black. You can actually see that happening in the bottom right corner of the picture. So, little by little, a whole burned tract of land is accomplished!
Here’s another of my husband burning off the fuel from around a stump. You really have to watch stumps and snags when burning. If they catch on fire, they can burn and smolder for days creating a potential hazard for wildfire.
Rather than stringing a whole line of fire as shown above, you can also administer this method of spot firing, which is just dropping a spot of fire here and there with the drip torch. This in turn creates an area that burns slowly back towards the black, slowly backs forward (remember the wind), AND slowly flanks on both sides towards each other (you’ll have a line of spots doing this whereas this picture just shows one).
You can always tell a good burn by the color of the smoke rising off of it. White = GOOD! Not too hot!
Meanwhile, only sometimes do you have time to sit back, roast a hotdog wiener, and enjoy your lunch break! LOL
Some people are affected by the amount of smoke, some not so much. Me here… it tears my eyes and sinuses UP!!! GAH I usually do a lot of patrolling the baseline (which is the direction the smoke continually is pushed because of the wind).
Here is a series of pictures showing a burn coming to an end. All to the left of the flames is burned. The remainder of unburned area is to the right of the flames, and is played out in the following pictures. Note the direction the flames are laying in the second picture, this is NOT the place to light your baseline. This is the END of the burn. If we would have started there… the flames would have been rushing the non-burned area and created a head fire which would have been BAD!!! This way, this final line heads into the black already burned area and will POOF, burn itself out as documented in the third image! And by the way, that’s my uncle lighting off the final line (I told ya, it’s just in my family!) 😀
Now… what is the purpose behind this you ask? Well it’s allll based on the landowner’s predetermined management objectives. Varying fire timing, frequency, and intensity produces differing resource responses. It reduces fuels in the understory that could create wildfire hazard if allowed to build up. Controlled burning also stimulates the germination of certain fire-loving plant species and enhances the habitat of certain wildlife!
The remainder of the images are just ones that I’ve captured here and there. Burning creates some BEAUTIFUL sights!