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Houston County Courier - Local News

Copyright 2013 - Polk County Publishing Company

U.S. Forest Service conducting controlled burns for forest health
Houston County Courier

U.S. Forest Service fire personnel have begun controlled burns in the national forests and will continue the burns during the next few months. Despite recent rainfall, Texas is still recovering from its worst drought in more than 100 years and controlled burning dramatically reduces the chances of a wildfire spreading out of control. "We saw firsthand during the 2011 fire season the results of controlled burns. The devastating wildfires witnessed across East Texas were less intense, quickly controlled, and resulted in less damage to timber and other natural resources on areas that were previously treated with a controlled burn. The Bearing fire was a catastrophic wildfire that was contained and brought under control rapidly once it entered lands where controlled burns had been conducted," said Davy Crockett National Forest Fire Management Officer Bobi Stiles. "Our primary concern is for the safety of the public," Stiles said. "We want the public to know what we're doing when we conduct burns on the national forests. These are controlled fires conducted by experienced, qualified firefighters who work as a team to ignite, monitor and ensure that the fire stays within the control lines." The Forest Service conducts burning only when weather conditions are most favorable and are based on daily fire weather forecasts from the National Weather Service. Forest Service fire personnel take into account weather conditions and fire behavior before conducting a burn. "Folks may see a helicopter overhead, smoke columns rising and smoke settling in low-lying areas. Anytime there is a fire, there is going to be smoke," Stiles said. "There will be times when smoke will settle in low-lying areas especially during the late evenings and overnight hours." For those with respiratory problems, it is recommend 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. If drivers encounter smoke on the road, they should reduce their speed and use low beam lights to become more visible to other traffic. Controlled burns benefit wildlife habitat by removing dead and dying material from the understory which improves the availability of forage and the quality of browse for wildlife. Reducing the underbrush improves foraging, brood, and nesting habitat for turkey, quail, deer and other wildlife species. "The bottom line is that controlled burns and resulting smoke is a short term inconvenience that results in a long term gain by benefitting wildlife, improving forest health, and protecting homes and property from destructive wildfires," Stiles said. For questions about the controlled fire program or concerns please contact: Bobi Stiles, District Fire Management Officer at 936-655-2299


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