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Monday, January 14, 2013

Time to Burn

Many farms and ranches have a need or desire to manage grasslands or timberlands with fire.  The advantages of fire management are that fire can help suppress undesirable species and stimulate desirable species.  Controlled fires and also prevent uncontrolled fires by removing fuel from an area.  The problem with burning is safety.  This blog is not meant as a comprehensive burn class, but just a reminder of things to think about before you  light the match.

The best time to burn is when conditions are good to have a fire.  Dry weather and proper wind conditions are essential.  Some wind can be useful especially when burning timber. The fire needs air. Prairie fires tend to create their own wind so wind may not be essential to burn filter strips or prairies with native vegetation.  Humidity also should be neither too high or too low.  Low humidity increases the chance of a wildfire.
  • Schedule your burn when the weather forecast is favorable
  • Tell your neighbors that you are burning
  • Tell the fire department you are burning
  • Have plenty of help.
  • Equipment need not be elaborate but have appropriate equipment.  Things I have found to be useful are:  A 4-wheeler, a small sprayer filled with water, a backpack sprayer, a leaf blower, flappers, a drip torch, and shovels.  
  • It may be useful to have some tillage equipment to confine the fire
  • Make sure firebreaks have been mowed and  cleaned off
  • Make sure everyone has appropriate clothing.  Natural fibers are best.  
  • Have a plan.  
  • Review your plan with your help.  Make sure everyone knows what is expected
  • Discuss escape routes
  • Have a phone to call the fire department if something goes wrong
  • Have drinking water for workers
  • Have a post burn review.  Your helpers may have seen something that you did not
  • In order to minimize impacts to wildlife you may want to burn half or less of your management area in a given year.  
  • Burn before April 1 in Mid-Illinois to avoid impacting nesting birds.  
  • Get some training or do a lot of reading before you manage a burn.  
This list is not meant to be comprehensive.  It is just a reminder to be careful out there. 

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