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Borrego Springs, CA

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Prescribed burn

When I went in to work this morning, Doug told me not to bother to set everything up in the Visitor’s Center.  It turns out that the fire crew was going to do a prescribed burn on the Dees Trail and the about 200 acres behind the VC.  It was decided the front gates would remain closed, so there would be no visitors today.  I was pretty excited at this prospect.  Just about all the refuges I’ve volunteered on have a fire crew, but I’d never been able to see a prescribed burn.

 

Back in the second half of the last century, fire suppression was the order of the day, and all fires were immediately extinguished.  Present thinking is that fire is a good thing for reviving the habitat under controlled circumstances.  Without burns on this refuge, there would be nowhere for the cranes to live and breed.   The schedule here is on a three year rotation for burning the savannahs.  It was time for the area surrounding the VC.

57 MS Sandhill Crane NWR39

In a prescribed burn, the first step is starting the fire to consume the woody underbrush.  The long-leafed pines are built to resist this kind of fire.  It is amazing how much planning goes into one of these burns.  One of the fire crew handed me a walkie-talkie so I could hear all the communication between the crew members, and could follow what was going on.

57 MS Sandhill Crane NWR38

After ignition, steps are taken to control the burn to wanted areas.  I was interested to observe that almost half of the fire crew were females. 

57 MS Sandhill Crane NWR40

It wasn’t long before the savannah floor was ablaze.  You would be amazed how quickly the land will regenerate, and the bio-diversity will return.   The fire crew on the ground directed the fire through the entire trail area.  Then it was time to burn the savannah behind the VC.

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After the ground crew burned a 100’ wide swath surrounding the 200 acres, the helicopter was called in.  They drop ping-pong ball shaped incendiaries out of the copter to ignite the inner circle of savannah.

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It certainly is effective!  The fire sweeps through quickly, so the young bluebird family in this box remains unharmed.  I did see a cottontail rabbit making an extremely rapid exit, though.

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Before man encroached on this habitat, fire was a natural occurrence.   My respect and admiration for these men and women of the fire crews certainly increased today.  What a great learning experience it was.

_MG_0924And what did father bluebird do during all this commotion?  He just calmly went about his job of catching bugs to provide for his family.  Smile

 

Thanks for stopping by…. talk to you later,  Judy

24 comments:

  1. That is a pretty big fire. Glad they know what they are doing. After reading about the Texas fires, you realize what can happen when things get out of control.

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  2. Bet that was interesting to see live.Thanks

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  3. Oh man, I don't think I could watch that kind of destruction - even for a good cause. Glad the bludbird got on with the job.

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  5. Looks scary to me, hope all the critters made it out safe and sound!

    I'm not clear with the goal. Is it to kill the vegetations or also the living things?

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  6. Ha! I just called you Emma in the comment, above!

    I'm familiar with prescribed burns on farm land, but I've never seen such up close and personal pictures of woods and wild lands being burnt. Great pictures and editorial!

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  7. They used to be called "Controlled Burns". It is obvious that you can never really control a fire once you set it, so now they call it a "Prescribed Burn".

    I think the world of those fire fighters. Some are just barely out of childhood and they carry all that heavy equipment on their backs and hike for miles into the area. The fires were some of the most interesting things that happened when I worked at Lassen, and I'm grateful for the experience.

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  8. I know it's necessary but fires scare the heck out of me. Thankful for the firemen and women that keep these under control. Thanks for sharing the process.

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  9. Very interesting post...glad those guys know what they're doing!

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  10. sure glad that they kept it under control!!!..what a sight to see!!!

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  11. That's a good size fire, it makes one very aware of forest fires that are not a controlled burn. Love the pic of the bluebird!
    Take care and hope you din't have too much smoke inhaled.

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  12. I know fire is a force of nature. I'm glad the birds wern't harmed.

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  13. Those prescribed burns are amazing in the process and in how restoring to the habitat they are. With the controlled burns, the regrowth is within weeks, unlike the wildfires that take more than the undergrowth. Those are much longer in recovering. I'd love to watch one up close. Well, sorta up close!!

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  14. Thanks for sharing ... I've always wondered how a prescribed burn really works ... seems to me control and fire and not words that one can usually associate with each other.

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  15. Really incredible and your explanation was fantastic. What pictures. And what a great experience for you.

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  16. Interesting blog and great pictures. It's amazing how the Savannah burns but the pines are o.k.

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  17. It was interesting to see your pictures of the prescribed burn. It's amazing how things regenerate after that type of burn. Did you suffer any ill effects from the smoke? And how's your neck doing?

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  18. i use to do prescribed burns for Texas Parks and Wildlife... yes a lot of planning is necessary to keep it in control..

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  19. I remember driving out West in the mountains 20 years ago where forest fires (NOT controlled) devastated the area...and now it is lush with fresh vegetation and new trees...However, what is happening in Texas is getting way too close to residential...and 2 firefighters died..Actually, the residential in now encroaching on the open prairies with the creeping housing developments"-( Great photos of our American heroes!

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  20. Alot of planning in a controlled burn, but like you said it's necessary!

    Great post!

    Awesome pictures.

    Thanks for sharing!!!

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  21. Absolutely amazing post. Thanks, Judy for sharing this with us. The pictures are great. Thanks also for your well wishes.

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  22. Wow! What an interesting thing to see up close and personnel.

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  23. We have a friend here in Iowa that maintained 40 acres of prairie that required prescribed burns. In the prairie it is partly to keep out the non native weeds and plants. He would recruit friends and neighbors to help so John was in on a couple of burns. It was interesting to see them set the back burns to meet the original burn and put itself out. It worked pretty well but they always had to watch the wind forecasts. I am totally fascinated with fire so I am always up to watch a prescribed burn. Thanks for all the photos.

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  24. Thank you for the amazing photos! I knew this area was scheduled to be burned this spring and was hoping to be able to see it - and in a way I did! What an exciting experience for you - WOW!!! If there weren't prescribed burns, we would have more wildfires like the one in Texas.

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