Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Right Prescription

After 2 1/2 years of cutting, shearing, pushing and piling cedar, not to mention breathlessly waiting for the weather conditions to be just right, the BIG DAY finally arrived.  Our prescribed burn of some 70 acres of our property at the farm was really happening.

We have been watching the weather for a week, hoping conditions would hold.  Early this morning we got the go-ahead from Burn Boss Jim Kenton of the Cross Timbers Prescribed Burn Association.  Winds were expected to be from the south-southwest at 10 mph or less; humidity would be less than 50%, and those conditions were expected to hold for 8 hours or so, beginning mid-morning.  This was very important, because if the conditions do not meet the "prescription" for a safe and effective burn, it will not be held.  We were fortunate, though, and weather conditions met the requirements.  Members of the Burn Association had been notified; equipment and people arrived on schedule; lunches and other provisions were prepared, and we were ready!

On Wednesday, with the dogs as company I had walked the perimeter of the 70 or so acres we planned to burn and documented that the fire lines had been mowed or bulldozed to protect adjacent landowners and other parts of our property (including the houses and barns)!

This morning, Jim assembled the volunteers and handed out assignments.  JT would drive the water truck; Tom, Calvin, Chase, Marco, John and others would man the propane “pear burners” and drip torches; Eric would provide regular weather updates on changes in wind speed, direction and relative humidity; Sheron would hand out water and ferry volunteers to where they were needed; and Carolyn, Donna, Allan, Jef, Bobby, Larry, Bill and others would do whatever was required.

At 11:00, Jim gave the word and the first fires were set in the pasture adjacent to Allan and Jef’s house along CR 313.

After those several acres were burned, providing  a reliable “black line” to protect adjacent pastures and landowners, the big brush piles on top of the hill were set.  

As the huge piles of cut cedar on top of the hill burned, Jim gave the go-ahead to "drop fire" in the pasture below our house.  The flames raced across the flats south of the house and up the hill, where they joined the fires on top with a roar.

Allan, Jef and JT protected the yard fence as the fire crawled nearer and nearer to the house.

While Kaia supervised, Eric and Jef manned the hoses to keep the grass around the propane tank wet to prevent the fire from coming too close.  

At every juncture, volunteers reported progress on their radios and received instructions from the burn boss, moving to where they were needed.  We are so grateful for their able assistance and look forward to helping when a prescribed burn is scheduled on their property.

By 4:00 p.m. our prescribed burn had accomplished its mission and the volunteers had headed home, ready to report for duty on the next burn.  We took a tour of the perimeter, marveling at the changed landscape that now looked more like the plains of Hades.  However, we know that in a few weeks the new growth will emerge, turning the hillsides green with new grass as the trees burst into bud.

As we sat on the porch this evening, we watched fires in the few remaining piles of brush flicker and glow.  

Fire is scary, and can be a very destructive force.  In the hands of knowledgeable, committed volunteers, however, it can transform a landscape of invasive cedar and scrub into a habitat for lush grasses and hardwoods.  We can hardly wait for spring!

No comments:

Post a Comment