Burn demos: Crosby Arboretum to host a series of controlled burn demos on Thursdays and Fridays through prime burn months

Published 10:59 pm Saturday, January 10, 2009

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire and where there’s fire, you might just find Terry Johnson, Burn Manager for the Crosby Arboretum in Picayune.

Johnson plans to host a series of controlled burns, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., on Thursdays and Fridays through the end of February (with the exception of next week, January 15 and 16).

Last Thursday was a perfect day for burning, and Johnson was granted his permit, as usual, the morning of the event. He quickly called his crew, filed the legal paperwork and within a few hours, the burn party began.

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A test fire proved that the first site selected to be burned on Thursday was not quite ready, probably due to all the recent rains and ground saturation, so the crew moved over to their second planned destination of the day — a corner of the pitcher plant bogs in the Savanna Exhibit.

Within mere minutes of torching the ground, the northern most corner was ablaze, throwing off goodly amounts of heat and smoke.

“See how the wind will pick up, your fire actually makes wind,” said Johnson as the flames leapt higher and higher, and the winds seemed to intensify and move the firewall along at a nice, fast-paced clip. Thursday’s winds were shifty!

“You saw how fast that went,” he continued, “You get a wind shift and you don’t have the right help, you can get into trouble.” Johnson will not host a burn without the proper amounts of hands and eyes on deck. Even with approximately six inches of water floating underneath the brush, the fire had no problems burning the areas inside of the controlled perimeters.

Although setting fires would seemingly be the antithesis of what the Arboretum would want to have happen in a place full of trees and natural beauty, the fires are actually a necessary ingredient to preserving the delicate balance of the landscape. It is up to Johnson and his crew of MSU Extension Center staff and a host of volunteers to start those fires and keep them contained.

On Saturday, January 17, from 1-3 p.m., the Arboretum will host a Fire Ecology workshop for adults. The workshop will include a discussion on the benefits of fire in nature by Sue Wilder, Ph.D., Regional Fire Ecologist, followed by a small burn demonstration with Johnson, if conditions are favorable. This program is being offered free to Arboretum members with a cost of $4 for non-members. Those interested in attending must register no later than January 15 by calling 601-799-2311.

To attend one of the weekly burn demonstrations, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays in January and February, make sure to call ahead one hour before the program is scheduled to start to confirm that conditions are favorable for a prescribed burn. Remember to wear old clothes with boots and bring a lunch. The fee is free for members, $5 for non-members. For more information, call 601-799-2311, or visit www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu.