Tom's Blog

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Two-year spring prescribed burn summary: Pleasant Valley Conservancy

Pleasant Valley Conservancy spring burn summary: 2014 and 2015
Area burned:
2014: 82.5 acres

2015: 90.6 acres

Burn designation
Type of area burned
Date: 2014
Date: 2015
South-facing slope; prairie and savanna remnant; several planted prairies
March 29, 2014
March 18, 2015
Savanna and prairie
Ridge-top bur oak savannas; Basin (white oak) savannas; planted prairies
April 6, 2014
March 20, 2015
North-facing woods; white oak woods; planted and remnant prairie
with April 6, 2014

April 6, 2015
Narrow strip adjacent to wet mesic prairies
April 22, 2014
April 16, 2015
Total acres


These were the 17th (2014) and 18th (2015) years that Pleasant Valley Conservancy has been burned. For a summary of all burn years, see this link.

A few notes:
In addition to the spring burns, a major fall burn of the complete North Woods was done on October 29, 2014. See this link for details.

These successful burns confirmed our belief in the value of doing large burns. When the weather is favorable and a good crew is available, the plan is to start as early in the day as possible and burn all day, reserving the late afternoon/early evening for mop-up. All preparation work, such as finalizing firebreaks and adjusting equipment is done on previous days. Lots of drip torch fuel and water are at hand. (Experience has shown that you can never have too much drip torch fuel or water.)

The best burn weather is in the 11 AM until 3 PM period and the crew is made to understand that time cannot be wasted during this period of the day on lunch or other “social” activities.  Crew members should carry whatever lunch items they need on their person (power bars are distributed before the burn begins). The water supply vehicle carries lots of extra drinking water, and the crew is urged to avoid dehydration.

Spring burns: In general, spring burns are relatively easy to carry out. The burn season is fairly long, and the fuel is well cured. The key is to start as early in the season as possible. The quite different starting date between 2014 and 2015 was because of weather variables.

Some issues that may arise: 1) getting DNR approval for a burn; 2) statewide burn bans; 3) lining up crew; 4) variable weather. In 2015 we employed an experienced fire weather meteorologist to provide advanced warning of when good burn weather could be anticipated.

Fall burns:  These burns are often difficult. The burn season is fairly short and the prairie fuel will not be well cured. However, fall is generally the best time for oak woods burns. A successful oak woods burn depends on leaf fall, which is somewhat variable from year to year. (In 2014 we had great leaf fall of all oak species the last three or four days of October.) DNR approval is not needed in the fall and statewide burn bans never occur. Since few fall burns are done in our area, a crew is easier to get. However, good burn weather may never develop. Daylength is shorter.

Night burns should be avoided except in unusual situations. Even in the spring, with DST and longer days, conditions at night are generally unfavorable (higher RH; unsure footing; difficult mop-up). In the fall, night burns can almost never be done.

 Prescribed burning is a seven-day-a-week job. This does not mean that burn crews must work seven days a week, but some crew members must be prepared to work on Saturday and/or Sunday instead of one or two weekdays, if necessary. 


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