Burn rings are ignited with potasium permanganate balls injected with ethylene glycol that a thrown from passing helicopters.
Residents in Bryan County and others living near Fort Stewart probably have noticed a little smoke recently. Bob Tanner, fire operations team leader for Fort Stewart’s Forestry Branch, said not to worry.
He said the Army deliberately conducts “prescribed burns” in specific areas from March through June and over the Christmas holidays to prevent uncontrolled wildfires. Each area is burned on a three-year cycle, he said.
“Basically, we burn for the military mission and to protect endangered species,” said Tanner as he prepared to lead a prescribed-burn meeting with key “burn bosses” in the Forestry Branch conference room. “If we don’t burn (undergrowth like brush, leaves and pine straw), and a wildfire occurs, it’ll be more destructive. Prescribed burning is part of forest management.”
Tanner said prescribed burning mitigates fires caused by lightning or tracer rounds and flares during military training. Fire Operations Chief Tony Rubine said the success of prescribed burning is indicated by Fort Stewart not having lost a day of training due to wildfires since 2000. He said wildfires have dropped from 700 a year to about 100 a year. And though the Forest Branch has burned more than 1.1 million acres through prescribed burning since that time, there have been no “time lost” accidents while burning.
Tanner said he follows a prescription checklist before each burn, which includes up-to-date information on the weather, including wind speed and direction; temperature and relative humidity; forest fuel like brush, leaves and pine straw in the prescribed area; and structures that need to be protected, such as buildings, light poles, bridges and colonies of red-cockaded woodpeckers.
“We try to take into consideration who might be most affected by the smoke,” said Tanner, pointing out there are areas near I-95 that are infrequently burned due to the risk of smoke affecting traffic on the interstate. “Any wind shift could cause a problem,” he said.
Read more in the March 13 edition of the News.