Controlled burn

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Firing the woods in a South Carolina forest with a custom made igniter mounted on an all terrain vehicle. The device spits flaming fuel oil from the side, instantly firing the leaf litter.

'Prescribed' or 'Controlled burning' is a part of forest management. Fire is a natural part of forest ecology and controlled fire is a useful tool for foresters.

Controlled burning stimulates the germination of some highly desirable forest trees, thus renewing the forest. Some seeds, such as sequoia, remain dormant until fire breaks down the seed coating.

Another consideration is actually fire control. In Florida, during the drought in 1998, catastrophic wildfires burned a number of homes. But forestry managers note that the real problem was that controlled burning had mostly ceased in the area, due to complaints by homeowners. Each year additional leaf litter and dropped branches increased the likelihood of a very hot and uncontrollable fire.

"Stopping control burning does NOT stop the burning, just the control!" said Dave Sumpter of the Florida Forest Protection Bureau.

George D. Kessler, professor of forestry, and extension forester at Clemson University notes that controlled burning reduces fuels, improves wildlife habitat, controls competing vegetation, improves forage for grazing, improves accessibility, helps control tree disease, and perpetuates fire dependent species. In old growth longleaf pine forest, it helps maintain habitat for endangered Red-cockaded Woodpeckers in their sandhill and flatwoods habitats.

Anyone planning a controlled burn should check with fire control authorities for regulations and permits. In South Carolina permits are required and are obtained from the South Carolina Forestry Commission. The party responsible must delineate the intended time and place. Obtaining a permit does not relieve one of liability if the fire gets out of control.

Controlled burns are commonly ignited using a tool known as the driptorch, which allows a steady stream of flaming fuel to be directed to the ground as needed. Variations on the driptorch can be used such as the helitorch, which is mounted on a helicopter, or other improvised devices such as mounting a driptorch-like device on the side of a vehicle. A pyrotechnic device known as the fusee can also be used in ignition.

See also

Shifting cultivation - Agroecology


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