Prescribed Fires Planned For Bath County This Spring
Warm Springs, Va – Approximately 6,000 acres of prescribed fire is planned for the Warm Springs and James River Ranger Districts for the spring of 2011. Potentially as many as 8 prescribed burn areas ranging from 26 acres to 5,700 acres are planned for ignition by hand and helicopter.
Big Wilson at 5700 acres in Bath County on Warm Springs Mountain.
Neal Run at 2400 acres in the Hidden Valley area.
Bald Knob at 450 acres on Warm Springs Mountain.
The Warwick HFRA burn at. 26 acres in Hidden Valley.
The Hidden Valley Grass Fields at 64 acres in Hidden Valley.
And the Gathright burn at 60 acres in the Lake Moomaw area.
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 fuel 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, mixing heights, transport winds, dry fuel moisture, live fuel moisture, soil moisture, and days since wetting rain.
When everything is within limits, a “burn window” exists and the prescribed fire be implemented. While there may be smoke, it will likely be far less than that produced by an unwanted wildfire in an area where fire has not been restored to the ecosystem. Consideration for human safety is 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 some of the rarer species that include ruffed grouse, golden-wing warblers, grizzled skippers, and smooth coneflower. Without natural understory fires, oak seedlings in the understory are outcompeted for available light and food by more shade-loving species, such as red maple and white pine. Without fire, over time, an oak-hickory forest will become a different forest, one dominated by maples, and pines and gums and other species which do not provide the wildlife habitat that many of our species depend on.