If you see scorched earth as you’re walking down the trail in a DuPage County forest preserve, that’s because crews are conducting controlled burns in the coming weeks.
“A prescribed fire is one of our most efficient ecological management tools. We utilize the fire to help control invasive species – things from Asia, Europe. Things that are non-native to the United States,” said Erik Neidy, director of natural resources at the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County. “The fire helps to control those species, it helps the diversity, the good things, the plants, the grasses, the flowers, to flourish and provide a better habitat for the animals and wildlife of DuPage County.”
The natural resource tool also helps nutrients return to the soil. Weather is the biggest factor for crews to decide if they can conduct a burn, which makes advanced planning a challenge.
“A really good burn day would be wind speeds under 20 mph, a relative humidity between 30% and 40%, not much lower than that, and a wind direction that allows us to utilize our fire brakes to keep the smoke out of our neighborhoods,” said Neidy.
Local fire departments are contacted on the day of a burn and signs are posted for forest preserve visitors. Burns only take place during daylight hours with crews present.
Prescribed Fires vs Wildfires
Neidy said there’s a difference between prescribed fires and the wildfires out west. “The fuels you see out west with the dry pine forest that go up into the canopy and go across thousands and thousands of acres, that’s not the fuel we have here,” said Neidy. “We have oak and hickory woodlands where all the fuel is on the forest floor. All the leaves fall to the ground. And they don’t burn up and down the trees and move across the top of the trees.”
The controlled burns will take place at various preserves and are also done in the fall. The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County’s goal is to cover 2,000 to 4,000 acres per year.
Naperville News 17’s Aysha Ashley Househ reports.
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