Tom's Blog

Thursday, February 23, 2017

First burn of the season at Pleasant Valley Conservancy

We keep pushing the burn season further back toward winter! Ten years ago we generally did our first burn in early April. In 2015 we did the first burn on March 18. Last year it was March 11. And now this year, February 22.

This year the Madison area had a record warm spell over the past week, with temperatures reaching the upper 60s. (The Winter Festival at Elver Park almost didn't happen on February 19!) Fortunately, due to Amanda's diligence and foresight, we weren't caught off guard. [The general rule for successful burns is: when conditions are right, burn burn burn!]

Our 2017 burn plans are shown at the end of this post. Burn #1 was what we did today.

We had a crew of 13 and all equipment was ready to go. Despite the dew on the grass at daybreak, by 10:30 AM, with a full sun and humidity below 50%, conditions were great and we started lighting.

The main burn (see map) included two ridge-top savannas and the large prairie/savanna remnant on the south-facing slope (27 acres). The latter burn is interesting because once the blacklines are in, it mostly takes care of itself. This burn was finished at 12:30 PM.

After lunch, we burned the long strip of planted prairies south of Pleasant Valley Road. Because of the complicated edges and various structures to protect, the afternoon burn took longer than the morning, although we were finished with everything by 4:00 PM.

Starting the ridge-top savanna burn.
Most of the burn was either a backing or flanking burn. Because of the lush fuel, the fire carried well.

Flanking fire across the south slope. The principal fuel here was warm-season grasses, Indian grass and little bluestem. Note how rocky the south slope is.
Kathie and Denny monitoring the savanna burn. The savanna on the right will be part of Burn #2, to be done sometime in March.
The burn is almost complete. Within seconds this fuel was gone and the fire was out. Only a few "smokers" were evident, mainly downed dead logs. Since they were well inside the burn unit, they were allowed to burn.


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