Tom's Blog

Saturday, April 4, 2009

April 3, 2009: Another good burn day

We have been held back from our prescribed burning by the unseasonably cool weather this spring. We had one great burn in the middle of March, and then the weather crashed. April 3, 2009 turned out to be a great burn day.

A cold front had come through and conditions were clear, although windy. Predictions were for sunny weather, maximum temperature 50 F, and RH around 35-40%. Even though there had been 0.5 inches of rain recently, the good wind dried out the fuel.

Today we wanted to burn the planted prairies below (south of) Pleasant Valley Road. These are the Valley, Cabin, Barn, and Crane Prairie. Crew: Susan, Marci, Jim, Craig, David, and Kathie. I mainly watched. Equipment: Mule with its pumper unit. We also had the truck and its pumper but did not need them. We also used 4 backpack water tanks, three drip torches, and four radios.

The Valley and Crane Prairies are separated from our wetland (mainly sedge meadow and cattails) by mowed fire breaks. We did not want to burn the wetland, so we used the pumper unit in the Mule to wetline the fire breaks. One drip torch moved along after the wetliner, and the other drip torch did interior lighting to speed up the burn. It took us about 30 minutes to complete the Valley Prairie burn (around 5 acres). The photo at the top shows how the Valley Prairie looked after the burn was over. Very good! (The hill behind is the south-facing slope that we had burn in mid-March.)

The Crane Prairie was burned the same way. The photo below shows the burn in action. Although the wind was supposed to be out of the north, our steep hill deflects it so that it ends up almost from the west, creating a flank fire. The vegetation just past the fire break is cattails. In addition to the pumper, two people with water backcans served as spotters. It took us about 30 minutes to complete this burn (3 acres).

Then we turned to the Cabin Prairie, which constitutes three separate plantings around our buildings. This is a rather fussy burn since we have electrical boxes, trees, and buildings to keep from burning. Lots of wetting down, which Kathie and David did (see photo below, which gives a good view of the Mule in action and also shows Marci acting as backup).

We had planned to do the Barn Prairie next, but since everything was burning so well, and we had a good crew, I decided to burn Unit 19 savanna instead. This is a long narrow unit at the very top of our ridge which we need to have black before we do our main savanna burn. It is separated from the main savanna by a gravel road, which serves as a fire break. We also have a fire break on the north side of Unit 19, separating it from the oak woods on the north-facing slope.

The wind was out of the north. We had one drip torch doing a back burn along the edge of the gravel, and the other torch lighting a head fire at the edge of the north fire break. This torch kept well behind the first one, and the two communicated by radio. The photo below shows the gravel road down through the middle. The burn unit is to the right. The big savanna unit on the left will be burned as soon as we get another good day.

There were two substantial brush piles that had been made 2 years ago. We let them burn. There were also some dead logs on the ground which we also let burn.

We finished the burns at 4:15 PM. Kathie and I then spent an hour getting all the equipment cold-proofed, since freezes were predicted. We drained the water from the hose and pumper unit in the Mule and added antifreeze. We then went out to eat and returned just before dark to check on the brush piles and burning logs. No real problems so we went home about 8 PM.

In all, a great burn!


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