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Forest Service: Controlled Burns Create Temporary Smoke, Long-Term Benefits

Since the first of the year, U.S. Forest Service fire personnel on the four National Forests have treated more than 84,000 acres with controlled burns.


“These controlled burns dramatically reduce the chances of potential wildfires spreading out of control and ultimately improve overall grassland vegetative health,” said Peter Goetzinger, Fire Management Officer for the National Forests and Grasslands in Texas.


“We will continue evaluating opportunities to burn into the late spring and summer months, and as always, our primary concern is for firefighter and public safety,” he said. “We want the public to know what we’re doing when we conduct burns. These controlled fires are conducted by experienced, qualified firefighters that work as a team to ignite, monitor and ensure the fire stays within the control lines.”


The Forest Service only conducts these activities under specific weather conditions that are based on daily fire weather forecasts from the National Weather Service. Forest Service fire personnel take into account predicted weather conditions and fire behavior before conducting a burn.  Other considerations include risk management, the right place, the right time, right plan, the right resource and the right duration.


“Folks may see fire engines and fire personnel on roads as well as smoke columns rising and settling in low-lying areas. Anytime there is a fire, there is going to be smoke,” Goetzinger said. “There will be times when smoke will settle in low-lying areas especially during the late evenings, overnight and early morning hours.”


The Forest Service posts signs warning motorists to use caution along roads where there is potential smoke impacts.  Though smoke may not be present where the sign is located, it may be in a low-lying area a mile or two ahead. If drivers encounter smoke on the road, they should reduce their speed and use low beam lights to become more visible to other traffic.


For those with respiratory problems, it is recommended to keep windows closed and stay indoors. Some may choose to leave the area until the smoke clears.


Prescribed fire benefit forest health by removing dead and 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, deer and other wildlife species.


“The bottom line is that prescribed fire and resulting smoke is a short term inconvenience that results in a long term gain by benefitting wildlife, improving grassland health and protecting homes and property from future destructive wildfires,” Goetzinger said. “And it’s the most cost-effective ways to prevent potential wildfires. Burning costs less than $30 an acre while mowing and brush removal can cost as much as $400 an acre.”


Anyone sensitive to smoke can be notified of planned burns in advance by contracting the Ranger’s office nearest your location:

Angelina National Forest, 936-897-1068

Sabine National Forest, 409-625-1940

Davy Crockett National Forest, 936-655-2299

Sam Houston National Forest, 936-344-6205

Information courtesy of us Forest Service.

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