by VDOF Forester Manij Upadhyay
Wildfire is a serious environmental issue in The United States and may cause significant damage to communities and properties. On the other hand, prescribed fire is an essential tool for forest managers. Each year prescribed burns are carried out on thousands of acres of land. You could say fire has two sides.
Fire has a bad side because each year large numbers of uncontrolled wildfires harm people, destroy homes, damage timber crops and other properties. It can cause harmful impacts on the environment: polluting air, damaging vegetation, degrading water and deteriorating soils.
However, if fire is used wisely by land managers, it can help in different ways. Fire can control unwanted invasive plants and promote the growth of desirable species. For example, longleaf pine responds well to fire, in fact its health is dependent of fire; the fire can help control other plants, allowing the longleaf to grow faster. Wildlife biologists use fire to create valuable wildlife habitat. Controlled fire, or prescribed fire, encourages the growth of new plants and produces more food for wild animals like white tail deer and quail. In addition, they reduce the risk of wildfires by decreasing the forest fuel load.
Only trained prescribed burn managers should carry out controlled burn activities. They prepare prescribed burn plans that take into consideration wind speed, wind direction, temperature, humidity and the amount of forest fuel. They also think about fireline location and construction. A pre-constructed fireline limits the area to be burned before the actual burn starts.
A prescribed burn manager respects fire. They apply it carefully and with a purpose. Fire can indeed have a good side. If done without proper planning and preparation or by unskilled and unqualified it has a bad side. I think Smokey Bear would agree “only you can prevent wildlifes, never play with fire.”