Montgomery County News, Arkansas - MCNews.online

Forest Service to begin prescribed burns

US National Forest Prescribed Burn
U.S. National Forest Service performs prescribed burns when deemed appropriate as part of a forest health and safety program. Staff Photo

HOT SPRINGS — The Ouachita and Ozark-St. Francis National Forests will be conducting prescribed burns in Arkansas and Oklahoma over the next several months.
Prescribed burns are conducted when the conditions indicate that natural resource management objectives will be met and there will be minimal impact to the public.
Land managers use prescribed fire to promote natural ecological processes. Also known as controlled fires, these fires are intended to meet several objectives. “The first objective of prescribed burns is to reduce the potential for large, costly catastrophic wildfires,” said Joshua Graham, Ouachita and Ozark-St. Francis National Forests Fire and Aviation Staff Officer.
Fire managers have two seasonal windows to conduct prescribed burns: dormant season (in the winter) and growing season (beginning mid-March). “During the winter, dormant season burns are very effective at reducing threats to forest health, such as wildfires, droughts, insects and disease, Graham said. “Other important objectives include improving habitat for a wide variety of wildlife, including deer, turkey, endangered Indiana Bats or Red Cockaded Woodpeckers and others, which are all essential in the balance of natural processes.”
Many conditions must be met before a prescribed fire can be ignited. The day chosen must be a combination of the correct humidity, wind speed and direction, temperature, fuel moisture, and atmospheric conditions. Factoring in all these requirements limits the number of days in which a prescribed fire can take place.
The Ouachita and Ozark-St. Francis National Forests will notify local media outlets and smoke sensitive residents on days when prescribed fires are scheduled in their area. Daily updates on prescribed fires across the Forests can be found at www.fs.usda.gov/osfnf or www.fs.usda.gov/ouachita, or by calling 888-243-1042. People with smoke sensitivities who are not already on the Forest Service’s prescribed burn notification list should contact their nearest Forest Service Ranger District office. Report any unattended wildfires by calling 911 or the Forests’ Fire Dispatch Center at 501-321-5232.
The USDA Forest Service is also reminding the public to keep drones away from fire activity. Flying drones or unmanned aircraft systems near a prescribed fire or wildfire is not only extremely dangerous, but illegal. Firefighters use a variety of tactics from the air and on the ground when conducting prescribed burns and while suppressing wildfires. Unauthorized drone flights hinder those efforts. Helicopters, planes and other aircraft that deliver hundreds of gallons of water and fire retardant to a burn site are already flying low, with minimal visibility and under smoky and windy conditions. When drones and firefighting aircraft share the same airspace, the risk of a midair collision increases. Violation of the federal, state, and local laws may subject the offender to civil penalties, including fines of up to $25,000, and potentially criminal prosecution.

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