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Chapter News - July 27, 2013

PF Prescribed Burn Team

PF Prescribed Burn Team

Date: Saturday, July 27, 2013

PHEASANTS FOREVER PRESCRIBED BURN TEAM

Pennsylvania Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever State Council's Prescribed Burn Team conducted their first official Rx burn this past April. Thanks to the State Council and PA chapter fundraising, the burn team was able to gather enough safety equipment and tools to plan and implement Rx burns safely and effectively.

Grasslands, such as native warm season grasses, need periodic management to maintain vigor and be kept from succeeding to forest. Prescribed fire is one of the most efficient, cost effective tools for grassland management. Prescribed fire helps rejuvenate native grasses by reducing thatch (buildup of dead grasses at ground level), controlling competitive weeds, and curtailing woody vegetation. Typically, warm season grass burns are conducted during the spring (March and April) while these grasses are still dormant, burning off the previous year’s growth. Since native warm season grasses such as switch grass, big bluestem, and Indian grass do not start growing until mid to late May, burning at this time does not injure the warm season grasses. Burning at this time does help control invading cool season grass and weed competition because they are starting to “green up” at this time and are vulnerable to fire. Since warm season grass germination and growth commences when the soil reaches a temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit, providing a “blackened” ground surface helps absorb solar heat for early growth of the warm season grasses.

Pheasants Forever has assembled a Prescribed Fire Team in Pennsylvania to plan and implement prescribed burns on grasslands. This team is made up of individuals certified for wild land firefighting and conducting prescribed burns. To perform these operations safely, the Team has acquired equipment through fundraising efforts by the PA Pheasants Forever State Council. Such equipment includes a 150 gallon pump skid unit, 100 gallon auxiliary tank, drip torches, backpack water tanks, fire swatters, fire rakes, weather meters, and personal protective equipment (Nomex).

Safety is always a major concern when conducting prescribed fires. To reduce the chances of the prescribed burn escaping to a wild fire, preparation such as adequate fire breaks and planning are essential. In addition to adequate resources, the “prescription” also includes the proper weather conditions and smoke management to conduct the burn. Acceptable limits of wind speed, direction, relative humidity, and atmospheric stability are all addressed within a Burn Plan. Pheasants Forever conducts their burns in accordance with the PA Prescribed Fire Standards. These standards require that a Burn Plan be prepared and approved by PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and PA Department of Environmental Protection for every property. The PA Pheasants Forever Prescribed Fire Team can prepare this plan or burn within an approved plan.

It is apparent that there are a lot of grasslands out there that could use this effective management tool that has been suppressed in Pennsylvania for too many years. Pheasants Forever’s goal is to increasingly utilize this tool to enhance the quality of grassland habitat for pheasants, quail, and other wildlife. If you would like to volunteer for the PA PF Prescribed Fire Team, contact Shon Robbins, PF Regional Wildlife Biologist at srobbins@pheasantsforever.org or 570-925-5870. Minimum qualification required to join the team is S-130 (PA-130) and S-190. To learn more on these qualifications visit www.paprescribedfire.org or contact your local PA DCNR Bureau of Forestry office.

Landowners that are interested in utilizing the PA Pheasants Forever Prescribed Fire Team to manage their grasslands through prescribed fire can also contact Shon Robbins at srobbins@pheasantsforever.org or 570-925-5870.

As the team continues to grow, the need for more safety equipment and tools will be needed. If you feel strongly that Pheasants Forever’s Prescribed Fire Team is important to improving wildlife habitat, your donation will help the Team grow. Please contact Shon Robbins.