Prescribed Burns To Occur In Monongahela National Forest
The USDA Forest Service announced in a recent press release that Monongahela National Forest fire managers plan to use prescribed fire to improve wildlife habitat and restore oak/hickory forests in two areas of Greenbrier and Pocahontas counties this fall.
Prescribed fire is one of the tools forest managers use to keep forests healthy by killing undesirable vegetation, forest pests and nonnative invasive species. It can also be used to encourage the growth of fire-resistant trees, such as oaks. Maintaining heathy forests with prescribed fire also benefits wildlife species that need the fire-adapted plants and open spaces created by fire to survive.
Monongahela National Forest Fire Management Officer Terry “Walt” Walter said “Fire managers follow a pre-approved burn plan to ensure weather and fuel conditions meet the need for a successful outcome in what we want from the burn. If conditions are not right, for example too wet to carry a fire or so dry that the fire will burn too hot, we do not burn.”
Walter also stressed that the safety of the firefighters, nearby residents and private property are top considerations when developing the burn plan. He said “As long as fire is moving on the ground, we will have personnel on-site. We will only leave the fire when it is safe to do so”.
Two hundred acres in the Chestnut Ridge area, located southeast of Green Bank, West Virginia, are planned to be burned in two blocks to maintain oak savannas. In a savanna, trees grow apart from each other so that they do not complete for sunlight and can develop large canopies. Sunlight reaching the savanna floor encourages grasses to grow.
Approximately 400 acres are planned to be burned in the Rucker Gap area, east of Neola, West Virginia, to improve wildlife. The Rucker Gap prescribed fire was attempted last spring, but the burn was stopped due to inadequate fuel conditions.
Neither prescribed fire will be conducted during West Virginia’s deer season, Nov. 20 to Dec. 2.
Each prescribed burn will be conducted when weather conditions are favorable to minimize smoke impacts to local communities. Area residents and travelers through the area may see or smell smoke from these prescribed fires. If you encounter smoke on the highway, slow down, turn on your vehicle’s lights and drive appropriately for the conditions.
Radio stations will be alerted to burn activities ahead of time. Signs will be posted on roads near all prescribed burn areas before and when burning is in progress.