Residents and passersby may see some smoke in the air beginning this month when the U.S. Forest Service starts its prescribed fire season to prevent wildfires and promote a healthy forest for plants and animals.
Prescribed fire, also known as a controlled burn, refers to the controlled use of fire by a team of experts to safely reduce excessive amounts of brush, shrubs, and trees. Prescribed fire helps reduce the catastrophic damage of wildfire on our lands and surrounding communities. Pre-planned prescribed burns are carefully analyzed and conducted under specific weather conditions.
“Prescribed fire plays an integral part in reducing fuels, improving all wildlife habitat, controlling competing vegetation, controlling disease and improving forage,” said Danny Bryant, Fire Management Officer with the National Forests in Mississippi.
Plants and animals native to pine habitats depend on natural fire cycles, which are mimicked through the use of prescribed fires to balance habitat and food sources. Prescribed burning is also one of the most effective land management tools used in preventing the outbreak and spread of wildfires.
“Because prescribed fires depend on having the correct weather conditions, the decision to burn is made very close to the actual burn time,” said Bryant, who directs the U.S. Forest Service’s fire efforts for the National Forests in Mississippi. “Fire managers study variables such as temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, how smoke will disperse and rainfall patterns.”
Drivers and residents are reminded of the possibility of unexpected shifting winds that could increase the risk of smoke on the road during prescribed burns. Always proceed with caution and please remember to reduce speed and turn headlights on if visibility is affected by smoky conditions.
Other federal and state agencies as well as private companies and landowners also use prescribe burning as a tool to help prevent wildfires and effectively manage land.
The National Forests in Mississippi is among those leading the nation in prescribed fire. Prescribed burning is conducted every three to five years in which about 200,000 acres of national forest lands are burned annually on the National Forests in Mississippi. National Forests in Mississippi include six forests: Bienville, Delta, Holly Springs, Homochitto, Tombigbee, and the De Soto (which also includes the Chickasawhay Ranger District). For more information, contact a National Forest in Mississippi Ranger District.