Spring Prescribed Burning

Ooooh, that smell. The smell of smoke in the air. The smell that makes my chest tighten and limbs stiffen up. Smoke. With distant memories of wildfires tucked neatly in my brain no smell effects me more than that of smoke from a fire. The good news is it doesn’t look like we have any prescribed burns on the Gunflint Trail scheduled soon but the bad news is you just never know what fire will do. I do know there’s still snow on the ground and moisture to be found so our chances of an early spring fire are very low.

Superior National Forest managers plan to conduct several prescribed fires on the LaCroix, Kawishiwi, and Laurentian Ranger Districts. Depending on weather conditions, the first burns will take place between April 15 and April 18, 2016. The purpose of these prescribed fires is to improve oak and blueberry habitat near Echo Lake and Lake Jeanette along the Echo Trail.  Several burn units from 4 acres to 93 acres in size are planned.

While the snow has melted in much of the state, there is still some snow in the forested areas of the Superior National Forest, making this the ideal time for meeting the objectives of these prescribed burns. The oak and blueberry habitat is located on rock knobs and outcroppings where fuels are sparse and the snow melts first. The planned prescribed fire units are not in a red flag warning area. However, wind is part of the prescription for burning because it helps with ignition and ventilates the forest stand thus reducing scorching on the larger trees that we want to retain. Prescribed burning in these areas reduces competing vegetation and allows the oak trees and blueberry plants to thrive in the future to the benefit of wildlife and people who like to pick blueberries.

As conditions allow, additional prescribed burns may also be completed in open grass and swamp areas on the LaCroix, Kawishiwi, or Laurentian Ranger Districts. For more information regarding these planned prescribed fires, please call the Kawishiwi or LaCroix Ranger District Offices at 218-365-7600 or 218-666-0020. Additional details about the planned prescribed fire units and the Prescribed Fire and Fire Program is available on the Superior National Forest website at:    http://1.usa.gov/1DTeXV6    Or www.fs.usda.gov/superior.

Prescription for a healthy forest – Conditions that nurture wildfires also can nurture prescribed fires. Prescribed fires are carefully planned, far in advance, with involvement from specialists in all of the resource programs on the Forest and designed to be implemented under specific conditions (prescription) to meet management objectives. Reducing dangerous fuel loads to reduce the risk of a quick-spreading large wildfire is often an objective for a prescribed fire. Prescribed fire is also a useful tool for preparing a site for regeneration, restoring certain forest types, and maintaining wildlife opening or other habitat enhancement. Several considerations go into planning a prescribed fire including fuel types, presence of sensitive plants or animals, visitor use, fuel moisture, winds, relative humidity, and projected weather. The prescribed season for implementing may be based on controlling certain invasive plants when their life history makes them vulnerable or avoiding the nesting period of a sensitive bird species.   In our region, spring and fall are usually the seasons when conditions match the prescription for a particular prescribed fire unit but sometimes management objectives indicate summer is the best timing for a prescribed fire. Prescribed burns are conducted by trained, certified Forest Service personnel and take into consideration temperature, relative humidity, wind and other conditions. Burns are rescheduled if weather conditions are unfavorable.

For updates regarding ongoing fire activity, please go to the national INCIWEB site at http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/

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