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ANHC Kicks Off 2019 Prescribed Fire Season

Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission - Tuesday, October 08, 2019
by John O'Dell

For the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission (ANHC), the annual prescribed burn season usually begins in September, and continues through the winter into early spring. Depending on the type of habitat and the ecological goals, prescribed burning usually ends in late March or early April.

In certain situations, growing season burns can be conducted during early or late summer. In order to have a successful burn program, burn crews need to have the proper equipment and tools. The basics begin with proper personal protection equipment, or PPE. This includes Nomex® pants, shirts, and face masks, along with leather gloves. Nomex® is a fire resistant material found in most clothing worn on prescribed burns. Crew members must also have a fire helmet and fire boots. The basic fire tools consist of fire rakes, flappers, adze hoes, axes, chain saws and drip torches (hand-held devices that slowly ignite an area). More advanced fire equipment incorporates ATVs and pumper trucks (trucks rigged with water pumps used in fire suppression).

After acquiring proper fire PPE and essential fire tools and equipment, the burn boss (burn crew leader) must develop a burn plan. A burn plan gives a precise, step-by-step procedure to successfully administer fire on a specific burn unit and is the most important document to have on site during a burn. A burn plan must go into detail on how the burn crew prepares, executes, and completes a prescribed burn. The burn plan describes the burn unit, the fire lines, the fuel types to be burned, firing techniques, and crew organization. It also contains the stated purpose of the burn, weather and fire behavior parameters, escape routes/safety zones, hazards, maps, and important emergency notification numbers. A proper and detailed burn plan needs to be on site for every prescribed burn, and is a legal document that shows all efforts were made to safely burn a specific area in case something goes wrong, such as an escape to adjacent land or structures. ANHC requires a copy of the burn plan to be onsite for all prescribed burns.

A pre- and post-burn briefing is useful for assigning job duties and in getting feedback from crewmembers. The pre-burn briefing details most of the information in the burn plan including fuel types, fire lines, firing techniques, crew assignments, and onsite weather readings. It ensures that all staff members know what their jobs are and how they should safely complete them. Post-burn briefings take into account what went right, and what went wrong before, during, and after a burn. This information assists the burn boss in determining what could have been done differently to make the process work better. Conducting a prescribed burn is a team effort, and precise coordination between team members is essential for a successful and safe burn.


Top - ANHC Land Management Specialist Emily Roberts participates in a prescribed burn at Railroad Prairie Natural Area. 

Right - A prescribed burn at Devil's Knob-Devil's Backbone Natural Area. 






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