Fire Managers Prepare for 2020

CADILLAC – The U.S. Forest Service will begin to conduct prescribed fires this month on the Huron-Manistee National Forests. This year, the fire management team has identified wildfire fuels reduction opportunities for prescribed fires in Wexford, Manistee, Lake, Mason, Oceana, Newaygo, Muskegon, Alcona, Crawford, Iosco and Oscoda Counties. Alerts will be placed on the Huron-Manistee’s Facebook page to inform the public that a prescribed burn may be occurring in their area.

“Prescribed fires reduce hazardous fuels that increase the danger of wildfires and allow fire to play its natural part of many ecosystems on the Huron-Manistee National Forests,” said East Zone Assistant Fire Management Officer John Norton-Jensen. “Species such as white-tailed deer, turkey, butterflies, songbirds, grouse and turtles use burned areas for food, cover and a place to raise their young.”.

Before implementation, Prescribed Fire Burn Plans are prepared taking into consideration a variety of ecological concerns and agency policies. “Project locations are selected based upon a variety of parameters, including wind speed and direction, relative humidity and temperature, fire danger and seasonal restrictions, and potential smoke impacts in order to best reach the identified resource objectives specific for the project area,” added Norton-Jensen.

“Prescribed fires are conducted with the safety of the public and firefighters as the highest priority and will only occur when appropriate resources are available,” said West Zone Assistant Fire Management Officer Persephone Whelan. “If it is necessary to temporarily close Forest roads and trails, the Forest Service will notify the public of these closures by posting signs.”

Agency personnel remain on-site to conduct the prescribed fire and monitor results for as long as there is visible smoke, she added. During prescribed fires, Whelan reminded, “visitors and residents may see and smell smoke many miles away and for several days afterward.” She explained that after the prescribed fire, burning material is extinguished near the outer edges. Logs and stumps may burn for a few days after the burn is done.

“Firefighters will return until the fire is considered extinguished,” assured Whelan noting that any fire lines created will be allowed to grow back with vegetation.

The Michigan Prescribed Fire Council notes that prescribed burning has long been recognized by land managers as a management tool capable of bringing about a complex array of outcomes, depending on how it is applied. These include both encouraging and discouraging plant growth, reducing thatch and duff, increasing nutrient availability, increasing rates of solar soil warming, and exposing mineral soils for better seed germination. More recently, land managers have come to understand the ecological outcomes of burning, particularly increases in biological diversity.

For more information on prescribed fire on the Huron-Manistee National Forests, please visit our Prescribed Burning Story Map.   


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