Burns maintain habitats
Burns maintain habitats
OWENSVILLE—Smoke billowing into the air in a rural area usually means volunteer fire departments will soon be battling a field fire.
But Tuesday morning, wildlife officials from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and other agencies managed a 300-acre prescribed burn a the Tern Bar Slough Wildlife Diversity area near Owensville.
“Tern Bar Slough is a wildlife diversity area set up for nesting Least Terns,” Amy Kearns, Assistant Non-Game Bird Biologist of the Indiana DNR’s Division of Fish and Wildlife explained. “This is one of the ways you can manage a property to keep it in grasslands.
“Prescribed burns are going to get rid of the trees that we have out, and we are going to keep a nice mix of grasses.”
The burn at Tern Bar Slough was the first in a set of scheduled burns by the group Tuesday and Wednesday. A burn will be conducted at the Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge near Oakland City Wednesday in the Columbia Mine Preserve.
“The number one reason (for a prescribed burn) is to reduce the fuel and decrease the chances of a wildfire,” Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge Specialist Heath Hamilton said.
“We kind of want to do it every three to five years and we need to get it started off on the right foot,” Hamilton said of the recently acquired Columbia Mine Preserve, which was burned in April 2013.
Despite windy conditions Tuesday, the crews worked with a burn plan that takes into account the conditions of the land, terrain, what is to be burned, humidity and ground water.
“Even though it was windy, the humidity was high enough and the ground was wet enough to burn today,” Non Game Asst. Aquatic Biologist for the Indiana DNR JoAnne Davis said.
She said that each member of the crew is outfitted with fire resistant apparel, gloves and a fire shelter in case of danger.
“All of the people out here are trained. We have to take classes and be refreshed each year,” she said.
Two fire engines and two all-terrain vehicles patrolled the areas during the burn.
The crews burned into the wind, laying fire down so it spread into already burned areas, so the fire could be controlled using drip torches. “It’s a canister that we put a mixture of diesel and gasoline in,” Davis said.
“When you turn it over, the gas runs through and comes out as a flame. Then it just drips fire on the ground.”
The burns are scheduled early in the spring to avoid damage to animals on the properties.
“We try to burn before a lot of the reptiles and amphibians come out of hibernation,” Hamilton said.
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