Wednesday, March 10, 2010

One Last Burn

Today was full of 'lasts,' but it was still a good day.  I started out by opening the park one last time.  It was finally a warm morning and the Wild Plum trees are in bloom everywhere.  I went to the office and took care of some things but I just now realized that I did not actually do the paperwork... oh well, I have a few more details to take care of tomorrow anyhow.  I will have to do the paperwork for the last time tomorrow.  I had known about the possibility of a prescribed burn at Ichetucknee for a couple of days, but I found out at 8am that it was, in fact, happening today.  I wrapped things up in the office and expected to be back in the late afternoon to finish up.  The burn was just over 20 acres and we normally do 100 or  more acres at once.  I didn't think that I would be away that long.  I didn't get back to Troy until well after 5:00.  I would rather be on the fire line than packing or doing paperwork anyway. 
I got to Ichetucknee around 10:00 and changed into my burn gear.  We had our briefing and drove around the zone that we were going to burn.  We did not expect this area to burn very well.  Some of it had nice fuels that would carry fire well, but there were some very dense areas near the edges and some sections that were full of plants that don't allow fire to burn through very well.  Fortunately, the winds were working heavily in out favor.  We were able to get the fire to move through the zone much better than we thought it would.  We made thick areas that looked like this:
nice and clear like this:

It was a beautiful day on the fire line and my manager made sure to let me see the best action on this fire because it was my last burn with them.  It was really cool.  I took a little video to share the experience.

For the most part, the burn went very very well.  We used ignition patterns and the wind to get a good, thorough burn in this zone.  We had some sensitive areas at the beginning that we had to be careful of.  We burned around the Administrative building and didn't have any trouble.  There is also a butterfly garden that we had to be cautious of  as well as a Gopher Tortoise enclosure that is in construction.  We carefully worked the fire around those obstacles without any problems.

When those areas were secure, we moved on to burn the rest of the zone.  It was a small zone so we were able to paint strips of fire all the way through it.  We burned small sections at a time so that it didn't get too hot, but we went all the way through to ensure a good burn.  The strips burned towards each other and pulled the fire through areas that wouldn't have burned well otherwise.  When we completed lighting the zone, we were sitting back to rest a little and let the fire burn.  We kept an eye on the fire, but most of the big flames had gone out and the fire was finishing up.

Just when we thought we were almost done, some embers carried to another zone and started a small fire.  We all jumped into action and were able to contain the spot fire.  Fortunately, we had burned that zone last year.  It is a zone full of very flammable fuels, grasses and pines.  Because the fuel load was reduced and there was not as much debris in the zone thanks to our burn last year, it was much easier to control than it would have been otherwise.  So this was a great example of one of the reasons we burn.  If this fire had been stated by a lightening strike without regular prescribed fire, it would have moved very quickly.  It may have even spread to other properties.  A fire starting in that area now, after prescribed fire, was easily contained.  We made sure to put the spot fire out all the way to make sure that no stray embers reignited that area.  We also made sure that the zone we burned was secure.  It was a longer day than we expected and the park staff that live at Ichetucknee will continue to keep an eye on the zones as it gets later and the temperatures and winds change.  Fortunately, a rainstorm is expected tonight so it will ease their minds sometime after midnight.
It was a great day.  It was hard work and very HOT work, but its enjoyable.  It was a great way to say goodbye.

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