The Pennsylvania Game Commission has received the tentative GO-AHEAD to conduct prescribed burns on several State Game Lands the week on November 14. Weather and conditions permitting, prescribed burns are scheduled for the following locations:
SGL 110 – Berks & Schuylkill Co. – Upper Tulpehocken & Wayne Twp. – West Northkill Burn – 348 acres
SGL 264- Dauphin County – Wiconisco Township – Big Lick Burn – Unit 3 – 109 acres
SGL 80 – Lebanon County – Swatara & Bethel Twp. – Monroe Valley Burn – Unit 1 -Blacklining burn only. The purpose of this prescribed burn practice is to burn a 50 to 100 foot wide strip, referred to as a “black-lining” along the uphill firebreak. This will remove leaves and sticks from the strip to create a wider firebreak in anticipation of burning the entire unit in the spring of 2017.
Specific details about each of the locations can be viewed at the Prescribed Fire <http://www.pgc.pa.gov/Wildlife/HabitatManagement/Pages/default.aspx> link on the Game Commission’s website.
According to Randall Bauman, Game Commission Southeast Region Forester, a prescribed burn is designed to improve forest and wildlife habitat. “The problem is that in a number of these locations, the oak seedlings are being outcompeted by other tree species, such as birch, maple and tulip poplar,” Bauman said. “The oak seedlings will eventually die out and be replaced, changing the composition of the forest. The loss of the oak seedlings is a problem because oak trees are extremely valuable to wildlife.”
Through the use of a prescribed burn, competing species will be reduced and the growth of the oak seedlings will be promoted. This will allow oak to remain the dominant species as this forest grows. The prescribed burn will follow all laws, standards and procedures of the Prescribed Burn Practices Act, as well as techniques learned from prescribed burns on other State Game Lands.
The use of prescribed fire, is very different from a “wild fire.” With a prescribed burn, safety is the first consideration in the process, from the planning through the implementation. The entire operation is overseen by a “Burn Boss” with extensive training and experience.
“During the day of the prescribed burn, access to the site will be restricted and only people directly associated with the burn will be allowed access at or near the site,” Bauman said. “Trained staff will be on hand with numerous pieces of fire equipment and water resources. All necessary local fire and emergency personnel will be notified in advance.
“Prior to the start of the prescribed burn, a small, easily extinguished ‘test’ burn will be conducted so that the Burn Boss can check the fire behavior and smoke dispersion patterns for the day,” Bauman said. “If the test fire burns within the pre-determined parameters, the prescribed burn will be allowed to continue. If it does not burn within those parameters, it will be called off for the day.”
Bauman also noted that, if the Burn Boss approves the burn to proceed, an experienced crew of Game Commission and other personnel will use a regimented process to burn the acreage described in the plan.