A “Prescription” for Burns: Two Burns Planned This Fall

Sycamore is preparing to use prescribed fire for habitat restoration at two preserves this fall: Sam Shine Foundation Preserve with Habitat Solutions and Laura Hare Nature Preserve at Downey Hill with The Nature Conservancy (TNC).

Prescribed fire is called that for a reason – like with medication to heal a wound, planning for a burn involves a “prescription.” This plan tells us exactly which conditions must in place and which guidelines to follow to do it safely and achieve desired objectives. Controlled burns can only happen when conditions are just right, including temperature, moisture, types of winds, level and altitude of winds in the atmosphere, and a safely prepared burn site.

Chris Fox, Land Stewardship Director, met with TNC this month to prepare to burn 70 acres at Laura Hare Nature Preserve in Downey Hill this fall. They walked the burn unit to make sure what they planned on the map looks good on the ground and to look for hazards. “For this fire, two of the fire break lines are roads, so we only have to look for hazard trees there,” Chris said. “Those need to be cut down so they are safe and don’t fall across the fire break and spread the fire to a unit we don’t want to burn.” Prep work was also done on the lines that aren’t roads, such as where the creek is used as a fire break, clearing it of brush wide enough so the fire can’t cross it.

Using fire as a land management tool helps give young oaks – a critical but diminishing keystone species in Indiana – a chance to establish where beech and maple have taken over understory, opens up the soils so that they can regenerate native wildflowers that have been smothered, removes accumulated debris to reduce the spread or intensity of future fires, and can help control some invasive species.

Chris serves as a board member on the Indiana Prescribed Fire Council and works with agencies and NGOs across the state to help educate and promote the safe use of prescribed fire, including Hoosier National Forest, Indiana DNR, TNC, and more.