DuPage preserves to get annual ‘prescription burns’
From Staff Reports November 1, 2012 8:24PM
A burn crew wearing fire-resistant yellow Nomex jumpsuits works on a prescribed burn in 2011 at Muirhead Springs Forest Preserve in Plato Township. Sun-Times Media file photo
Updated: December 3, 2012 6:41AM
The annual DuPage County Forest Preserve “prescription burns” will be done in the next few weeks.
“Unlike a wildfire, a prescription burn is a deliberately set, controlled, natural-resource-management tool that specially trained forest preserve district crews have used for over 25 years to restore native prairies, wetlands and woodlands,” the district said in a press release Thursday.
It said the prescription burns cannot be scheduled in advance because of safety concerns with the weather and other factors. On the morning of a controlled burn, however, the district posts signs and notifies local fire protection agencies.
Crews remain on-site throughout the process, which takes place only during daylight.
“If these factors are not present, the public should call 911 because they may be witnessing a wildfire,” the release said.
Aids native plants
“We conduct prescription burns partly to remove invasive, exotic plants so fire-tolerant native species can utilize a greater share of available resources,” said Erik Neidy of the district’s office of natural resources.
“But fire also breaks down organic plant materials, which speeds the return of valuable nutrients to the soil. It also prevents a buildup of plant debris, which can stunt new growth and keep rainwater from filtering through the soil.”
Prescription burns in woodlands remove invasive vegetation so more sunlight can reach native wildflowers and other plants on the forest floor, according to the district.
The county’s forests primarily contain deciduous species, such as oaks, with thick bark that is well-adapted to periodic fire and able to keep flames near the ground, it said.
“These conditions greatly contrast those in the dense coniferous forests of the West, where highly flammable pine needles enable fires to spread quickly and uncontrollably from treetop to treetop, as often reported in the news,” the release said.
A video featuring the district’s prescription burn crews in action can be seen online at www.youtube.com/dupageforest.
Established in 1915, the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County owns and manages more than 25,000 acres of prairies, woodlands and wetlands.
More information is available at 630-933-7200 or at dupageforest.org.