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Unseasonable Weather Kicks Off Early Spring Burns In Hoosier National Forest
Updated February 16, 2017 7:26 AM | Filed under: Natural Resources
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Hoosier fire fighters on a prescribed burn in Lawrence County in 2014. This opening restoration burn is planned for this week.

(BEDFORD) - Unseasonably warm temperatures and low humidity have Hoosier National Forest (NF) staff planning prescribed burns earlier than normal. Stillion Tract in Lawrence County was burned on Tuesday.

"We don't usually get started until March," said Fuels Specialist Jeremy Kolaks, "but this year we're planning to burn this week if we can get the right winds." He explained, "Each burn area requires a different 'prescription,' which determines what wind direction and speed, temperature and fuel moisture are required for any given burn to be ignited."

Forest staff then just wait for the right weather to burn. Test burns occur prior to igniting any unit to monitor fire behavior and smoke lift and dispersion.

The prescribed burn areas the National Forest will do first are grasslands.

"They dry out first after a rain and with the shorter day length, we can get in, get the line around them and get them burned before the humidity comes up at the end of the day," explained Kolaks. He noted the woodland areas will likely need to wait until later in the spring.

At this time there are areas planned in Brown, Crawford, Jackson, Lawrence, Martin, Monroe, Orange, and Perry Counties. Each of the areas has been identified to improve wildlife habitat or woodland restoration. In some cases wetlands or barrens are being restored; in others, the fire is used for opening or dam maintenance.

The size of the planned areas varies from 12 acres to 770 acres. There are 16 total areas that are available to burn; a total of 3,985 acres. The more areas the Hoosier NF has ready, the more likely on any given day and weather forecast the National Forest will be able to find an area that is appropriate to burn.

Kolaks notes with only a limited number of days before green-up the Hoosier NF, staff want to maximize their opportunities. He adds wind direction is often the limiting factor with adjacent roads or private homes so the Hoosier prioritizes areas.

Each area will be closed to the public on the day of the burn and for some time after the burn until the area is considered safe. If there are a significant number of burning trees in the interior of a burn area, the areas may be closed for several days for public safety.

The Mogan Ridge and German Ridge Trails may be affected by three of the burns that could happen later this spring. The trail would be temporarily closed until the area is safe. Signs are posted along the fire line and at any logical entry points into the area.

The exact date of each burn is dependent on weather and fuel conditions. Forest staff notifies the public in the immediate area of the prescribed burn.

If Forest neighbors wish to know the specific date of the ignition, they can call the Forest dispatch office to be informed once the decision is made to burn. Kolaks encourages anyone with medical issues who might be affected by smoke, such as asthma or emphysema, who live immediately around where a prescribed burn is planned, to contact the Forest Service.

"We want to do everything we can to minimize effects on our neighbors," Kolaks says.

For questions on the prescribed burns, to request notification, or to report medical conditions please contact the Indiana Interagency Coordination Center Dispatcher at (812) 547-9262.

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