Tom's Blog

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Early-bird burn season (spring 2015)!!

It's hard to believe that the very cold February and early March changed into a perfect season for early spring burns. As the map shows, we almost completed our planned burns over 2 days in mid March. We owe this to the diligence of Amanda, who organized the whole show. (Kathie and I were mostly only spectators this year.) Although we're not quite done with burns, we only have a couple of relatively small burns left (as well as the important burn at Black Earth Rettenmund Prairie).

The two major burns shown on the map, 27 and 46 acres, add up to 73 acres. Adding the big woods burn we did on October 29, 2014, we have burned over 100 acres of Pleasant Valley Conservancy during the 2014-1015 dormant season.

We made considerable effort this year to avoid damage to the trees, especially the oaks. All of the burns were carried out as backing or flanking fires. This was especially important because this year the fuel was very lush, and hence quite flammable. It takes longer to get backburns burns done, but because our fuel was good, the fire carried well and flame heights were low and relatively benign.

Back burning the South Slope through the bur oak savanna and
little bluestem prairie remnant. At this point the burn is almost complete.
Note that the burn coverage is almost 100%.  Slapnick photo

Careful burn along the east fire break. This was the only part of the fire break that was hand-mowed. The fuel here is primarily warm-season prairie grasses. Slapnick photo
The dates when we have been able to do spring burns in our area have varied widely from year to year. The earliest we have burned the South Slope was 13 March, and the latest was early April. Last year we burned on 30 March 2014, and this year it was 17 March.

The key to a successful burn season is to plan well ahead and have everything ready when conditions are right. The two major factors are weather and crew availability.

This year we hired a professional fire weather meteorologist to keep on top of the weather and tell us when a period of good, dry weather would be availability. This worked very well, although we lost one great burn day because Wisconsin DNR canceled burns statewide, in the areas under their control.


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