Forest Service plans controlled burns to reduce fire risk, improve forest health
U.S. Forest Service fire personnel will soon begin controlled burns in the national forests and will continue the burns during the next few months.
Despite recent rainfall, the forest is still recovering from the summer dry spell and controlled burning dramatically reduces the chances of a wildfire spreading out of control.
“Because of prescribed burning, the wildfires we had were less intense, quickly controlled, and resulted in less impact in East Texas to communities and homes as well as timber and other natural resources on areas that were treated with a controlled burn,” said Angelina and Sabine National Forests Fire Management Officer Jamie Sowell.
“Our primary concern is for firefighter and public safety,” Sowell said. “We want the public to know what we’re doing when we conduct burns on the national forests. These are controlled fires conducted by experienced, qualified firefighters that work as a team to ignite, monitor and ensure that the fire stays within the control lines.”
The Forest Service conducts burning only when weather conditions are most favorable and are based on daily fire weather forecasts from the National Weather Service. Forest Service fire personnel take into account weather conditions and fire behavior before conducting a burn.
“Folks may see a helicopter overhead, smoke columns rising and smoke settling in low-lying areas. Anytime there is a fire, there is going to be smoke,” Sowell said. “There will be times when smoke will settle in low-lying areas especially during the late evenings and overnight hours.”
For those with respiratory problems, we recommend they close windows and ventilate their homes by using the air conditioning or heating system. Some may want to leave the area until the smoke clears. We encourage anyone sensitive to smoke to contact the local Ranger’s Office to provide information so we can notify you in advance of planned burns in your area. If drivers encounter smoke on the road, they should reduce their speed and use low beam lights to become more visible to other traffic.
Controlled burns benefit wildlife habitat by removing dead/dying material from the understory which improves the availability of forage and the quality of browse for wildlife. Reducing the underbrush improves foraging, brood, and nesting habitat for turkey, quail, deer, and other wildlife species.
“The bottom line is that controlled burns and resulting smoke is a short term inconvenience that results in a long term gain by benefitting wildlife, improving forest health, and protecting homes and property from destructive wildfires,” Sowell said.
For questions about the controlled fire program contact:
Jamie Sowell, District Fire Management Officer
Angelina National Forest in Zavalla, 936-897-1068
Sabine National Forest in Milam, 409-625-1940
On the web: www.fs.usda.gov/texas