Spring is here and with it prescribed burns. As a fire fighter, I see the Wildland Fire Fighting teams doing their spring cleaning for the planet in the form of prescribed burns. I got to thinking that, while I know what that smoke on the horizon means, perhaps not everyone does.
Over time vegetation grows and dies. When it is abundant and very dry, a small spark can turn it into a raging field or wildland fire. Uncontrolled, these are very dangerous. Controlled or ‘prescribed’ fires are very safe and beneficial to the environment, your property and the safety of fire fighters.
Wildland fire fighters are trained to create controlled fires that clear an area of dead, dried brush to protect the environment. When done in this way, the excess fuel is burned off and new vegetation can grow in its place. The vegetation will grow without the dead stuff being burned off, but that can leave a dangerous fire load that can rage out of control.
The controlled burns do not, typically, endanger property or houses. Fire is predictable but weather is not. Winds can shift and increase and turn a controlled burn out of control but fire fighters work hard to prevent and predict that. A controlled fire is much less dangerous and is safer for homeowners when that fire load is removed.
All fire fighters fight wildland fires but not all fire fighters are Wildland fire fighters. Having a team of Wildland fire fighters manage controlled burns keeps all fire fighters from having to fight uncontrolled ones, keeping them safer too. There will be signs near the controlled burn that a training or prescribed burn is going on.
So, that smoke on the horizon is actually for safety.