ABAC’s School of Forestry recently performed its first prescribed fire. Students in the Natural Resources Management class set the fire as a part of their lab. They were under the direction of Kip Hall and burned approximately 10 acres on the Big Hill Tract. Hall said, “students that took part in the prescribed fire got a chance to get a hands-on experience.” Dr. Lane even brought her quantitative measurement class out to observe the fire. “They get to see what’s involved in prescribed fires,” Hall said.
Before a prescribed fire can be conducted, there are a few things that must be done. First, there has to be a weather check done. If the weather is suitable to burn that day, then the class will perform a prescribed fire. However, if the weather is too dry or too windy, then it would not be suitable to burn.
Once the weather is checked and cleared, Hall then contacts the Georgia Forestry Commission to let them know of the prescribed fire. He said this is an important step because they are assigned a forestry permit number. Then the students head out to the site.
One of the students that took part in the prescribed fire, Lizzie Buttram, said that once the class is on site, it does another weather check. The students used a Kestrel meter to check temperature, wind speed and the moisture in the air. If conditions are still good, then a test fire is done. After this, the prescribed fire is commenced. Buttram said that they raked out fire lines before using a drip torch to ignite the fire.
Hall and the students then observed it from a safe distance. They note the fires spread and that it hasn’t gotten too hot.
The fire is smudged out by a flapper and the class made sure it was out. The class is usually finished by 5 p.m. Buttram said, “everybody switches around, so you’re not stuck doing the same thing. Everybody has fun when we go out to a burn.”
Hall stated that this gives his students an opportunity to be hands-on and see how it works. “In the wildlife field, you need hands-on experience. It’s practical knowledge,” Buttram said.
Prescribed fires are mainly done to help with food production or wildlife and fuel reduction. This prescribed fire actually helped gopher tortoises, box turtles and plants.
This wildlife needed prescribed fires to survive and the area on Big Hill Tract is already sprouting again. Hall said seeing the post-fire green is one of his favorite parts of the prescribed fire.
“The transformation is typically eye-catching.” Buttram’s favorite part is walking through the woods after clearing and seeing how the prescribed fire has cleared up the patches. Hall said that hopefully, the class will be able to conduct additional prescribed fires for the rest of the semester.