By Teresa Holloway
RATCLIFF – The U.S. Forest Service will conduct controlled burns in the Davy Crockett National Forest area for the next few months and has issued an advisory to residents in the area.
“Our primary concern is for the safety of the public. We want the public to know what we’re doing and why we burn,” said Bobi Stiles, Assistant Fire Management Officer for the Davy Crockett National Forest. “These controlled fires are conducted by experienced, qualified firefighters who work in conjunction with Forest Service personnel to ignite, monitor and strictly control fires.”
To assist with maintaining safety in and around the areas of the burn, the Forest Service only conducts burns when the weather falls into specific parameters.
Forestry personnel are trained to understand the impact of weather conditions on fire behavior and use all available resources to ensure safety.
Decisions to burn are made on a day-to-day basis based on fire weather forecasts from the National Weather Service and other relevant data sources.
“Davy Crockett fire personnel work to minimize impacts to churches, schools and persons with respiratory issues,” Stiles said.
Careful planning and analysis means the impact on residents in the area is usually minimal. The Forest Service issues advisories to prepare nearby residents for any potential hazards and unusual air or roadway traffic.
“Forest visitors and residents may see a helicopter overhead and columns of smoke rising. At night this smoke may settle in low lying areas and roadways,” Stiles said. “If drivers encounter smoke on the road, they should reduce their speed and use low beam lights to become more visible to other traffic.”
For residents with respiratory problems, it is recommended they close windows and ventilate their homes by using the air conditioning or heating system. Some may want to leave the area until the smoke clears.
Anyone sensitive to smoke should contact the Davy Crocket Ranger Office to provide information so they can be notified in advance of planned burns in the area.
While controlled burns present minimal difficulties to residents, the benefits to the woodland ecology are numerous.
By “opening up” the forests, wildlife habitat is improved and ecosystems are restored.
Controlled burns benefit wildlife habitat by removing dead and dying material which improves foraging, brood and nesting habitat for turkey, quail, deer and other wildlife species.
Fuel loads are removed under controlled circumstances, which helps prevent accidental or uncontrolled forest fires from reaching massive proportions.
Eliminating the undergrowth reduces fire ladders, (the means by which fire reaches the tops of the trees), as well, according to the forestry service. Keeping uncontrolled fire at ground level is critical for controlling accidental fires.
“The bottom line is that controlled burns and the resulting smoke is a short-term inconvenience that results in a long term gain,” Stiles said.
Controlled fires protect homes and properties from destructive wildfires, benefit wildlife, improve and improve overall forest health, Stiles explained.
Interested persons can visit www.fs.usda.gov/texas to see where the Davy Crockett National Forest may be burning that day.
For questions about the controlled fire program or concerns contact Stiles at 936-655-2299