Hoosier National Forest conducting prescribed burns

BEDFORD — The United States Forest Service plans to conduct seasonal prescribed burning to maintain, restore or improve early successional habitat, maintain wetlands, restore and maintain unique barren ecosystems, regenerate oak and hickory tree species and improve soil health by naturally returning nutrients to the soil.

Historical data shows that throughout history natural occurring fire played a vital and necessary role in sustaining the eastern deciduous forest ecosystem, according to a new from Marion Mason.

Mason, a public affairs specialist with the Hoosier National Forest, wrote that scientific research supports the use of prescribed burning to reintroduce low intensity fire to its natural role within the ecosystem. Prescribed burning also reduces fuel loading, thereby lowering the risk of catastrophic wildfire.

Approximately 4,500-5,000 acres are planned to receive treatment with prescribed fire in the fall of 2021 on National Forest System lands in Jackson County and Brown, Crawford, Martin, Monroe, Lawrence, and Perry counties.

U.S. Forest Service fire managers utilize National Weather Service data to determine the best days to burn to achieve desired effects and to maximize safety. Many specific conditions must be met for a burn to occur, including fuel moisture, wind speed and direction, and relative humidity, among other factors. Decisions are generally made the day of the burn once parameters have been measured or forecasted.

Therefore, advance specific notification for a particular burn can be difficult. Forest staff notifies the public in the immediate area of the prescribed burn.

The public is advised to check the forest’s social media accounts for announcements of burns a facebook.com/HoosierNF/ and https://twitter.com/HoosierNF. Maps and additional details of the burn areas will be available at inciweb.nwcg.gov.

Designated burn areas will not be accessible to the public on the day of the burn and for some time after the burn until the area is considered safe. If any hazards are identified within the burn area, the area may be inaccessible for several days for public safety. Burning may affect access to hunting areas. For the public’s safety, contact the Indiana Interagency Coordination Center dispatch at 812-547-9262 if you plan to hunt or camp in or near prescribed burn areas.

An unfortunate side effect of prescribed burning is smoke. Fire managers burn only under atmospheric conditions specified in a burn plan and rely on scientific data to choose days in which the impacts of smoke are minimized. Smoke plumes from a prescribed fire usually rise high into the air where the smoke dissipates. When smoke is present, motorists should reduce speeds and turn on headlights.

All burns are implemented under carefully planned prescriptions and protocols to mitigate the risk of an escaped fire and smoke exposure to communities. All planned activities have been carefully coordinated with county emergency management agencies.

Forest neighbors who wish to be notified of a specific date of a burn, or those who wish to report medical conditions that could be affected by smoke, may contact the Indiana Interagency Coordination Center dispatcher at 812-547-9262.