With the increase in wildfires across Georgia and surrounding states over the last few months, we wanted to share some information to educate everyone on the benefits and dangers that come along with wildfires. To be clear, there are good fires and bad fires. A good fire can be classified as a natural way to allow proper regrowth of the ecosystem while being at a low intensity. A bad fire can be classified as an uncontrolled wildfire that may prove dangerous to surrounding homes or businesses. While both fires have their pros and cons, we must remain observant as they both can change due to factors that are beyond our control.
There is a type of fire called a prescribed fire, which is controlled burning conducted by certified, experienced and trained fire managers who apply prescribed burning on public and private lands throughout Georgia. A prescribed fire is a safe method to apply a natural process to ensure ecosystem health and to reduce wildfire risk. Professionals assess forest conditions, determine the type of fire needed, and write a “prescription” for the application of fire. The Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC) permits prescribed burns depending upon weather conditions and applicable safety measures.
According to the GFC, here are a few reasons for a prescribed burn:
• Reduce hazardous fuels.
• Prepare sites for seeding and planting.
• Improve wildlife habitat.
• Manage competing vegetation.
• Control insects and disease.
• Improve forage for grazing.
• Enhance appearance.
• Improve access.
At Allatoona Lake, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) implements prescribed fire to manage the land around the lake. Fire is commonly applied to manage timber stands and to control unwanted vegetation in campgrounds. Many native plants and animals are fire adapted and prefer ecosystems where fire is a recurring event.
A prime example of the benefits from a prescribed burn is the Longleaf Pine Restoration Site. In partnership with state agencies and local non-profits, the USACE Allatoona Lake staff manages a 350-acre Longleaf Pine stand on the north shore of the lake. To maintain the ecosystem’s balance, the stand and the microcosm require fire. The system prefers fire on frequent cycles of 3 to 5 years between burns.
With the high density of homes and development near the lake, smoke management is a primary concern during a prescribed burn. Careful planning is taken by prescribed fire managers to minimize any potential smoke impacts on public health and safety.
For more information, visit www.garxfire.com and www.gfc.state.ga.us/forest-management/prescribed-fire/