More Prescribed Burns Planned For Bath County This Spring
Warm Springs, VA – This spring has been short on prescribed fire opportunities. Wet and windy weather has dominated March and April so far. Only 60 acres of grass field burning at Hidden Valley has been accomplished.
Approximately 6,000 acres of prescribed fire is planned for the Warm Springs and James River Ranger Districts for this spring. Potentially 7 more prescribed burns ranging from 26 to 5,800 acres are planned for ignition by hand and helicopter.
The list of prescribed burns includes the following:
Big Wilson at 5800 acres in Bath County on Warm Springs Mountain
Neal Run, 2400 acres, in Bath County in the Hidden Valley area
Bald Knob, 450 acres in Bath County on Warm Springs Mountain
The Warwick Burn, 26 acres, in Bath County in Hidden Valley
The Hidden Valley Grass Fields 64 acres in Bath County at Hidden Valley
The Gathright Wildlife Burn at 60 acres in Bath County at Lake Moomaw
The burn objectives vary but include creating golden wing warbler habitat, improving overwinter habitat for small mammals, increasing forage and browse for large game, hazardous fuels reduction, and oak-hickory forest restoration.
The conditions for prescribed fire are complex. Weather and fuel conditions must all be within prescribed ranges in order to conduct the burn. At a minimum, parameters include wind speeds and direction, temperature, relative humidity, wind mixing heights, wind transport, dry fuel storage, live fuel moisture, soil moisture, and days since wetting rain. When everything is within limits, a “burn window” exists and the prescribed fire may be implemented.
While there may be smoke, it will likely be far less than that produced by an unwanted wildfire in the area where fire has not restored to the ecosystem. Consideration for human safety is always the highest priority for these burns.
The Appalachian ecosystem has evolved with and is dependent on fire to remain healthy and to provide optimal habitat for a diversity of plants and animals. The oak-hickory forest is by far the most prevalent forest type in this part of the Appalachians and beyond. Fire-adapted species include the oak and hickory forest, grasses and shrubs.
Many common animal and plant species such as white-tailed deer, black bears, squirrels, and eastern cottontails benefit from this habitat; as well as rarer species, including ruffed grouse, golden-wing warblers, grizzled skippers, and smooth coneflower. Without natural understory fires, oak seedlings in the understory are outcompeted for light and food by more shade-loving species, like red maple and white pine. Without fire, over time, an oak-hickory forest will become a different forest, one dominated by maples, white pines, and other species which do not provide the wildlife habitat that many species depend on.