This blog is devoted to increasing the awareness of our natural world and to the people working to conserve it. Approximately every three weeks, you’ll have the opportunity to vicariously follow along with David Cordray and discover the beauty, excitement, wonderment, and sometimes tragedy of our natural world.

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Burn Season Prep

February 27, 2016

With many of the landowners we work with, it’s not unusual for their houses to be right in the center of a prairie. It’s not hard to understand. They want the beauty and wonderment of the prairie as close as possible to maximize their enjoyment of it. And they typically have small conventional yards (bluegrass) supporting their land ethic of minimizing human impact and maximizing native diversity. This makes a lot of sense; bring nature as close as possible.

 

This all aligns well with most goals of ecological restoration such as human to nature interaction, sustainable land use, maximizing native diversity, reducing our footprint. However, prairies need fire to sustain themselves. Houses and fire don’t mix! It’s kind of like rock, scissors, paper. Fire trumps house!

 

What to do? Build a fire-proof house with a metal roof and brick siding? Certainly this is helpful, but in most cases the house was originally built in a sea of bluegrass before its owner found “prairie consciousness” and converted the bluegrass yard to prairie.

 

The solution is to use fire to protect the house. Burn a buffer zone around the house well before the main burn season and while conditions are not favorable for volatile or aggressive fire behavior. This typically means colder temperatures and higher relative humidity. The burned out area around the house and barn in the photo was done in the morning with the temperature at 33 degrees F and the relative humidity around 60%. Of course you still need fire breaks installed prior to burning out your house buffer zone. The smart thing to do is to use permanent nature viewing trails as your fire breaks.

 

It will likely take some practice to get a feel for the best weather conditions to burn the house buffer zone. The fuel needs to burn well enough so that it will not re-burn later during the main burn season, but on the other hand, the fire needs to be well behaved with short flame lengths and minimum firebrands (sparks that may catch fire elsewhere).

 

In summary, think about the mechanics of implementing prescribed fire when integrating your house with your natural lands. “Engineer” your residence landscape to support both human to nature interaction and prescribed fire. Burn your house buffer zone when conditions are not favorable to aggressive fire behavior. And if you are new to prescribed fire, get training and help before taking it on yourself.   

 

      

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