EAST ALTON – October through mid-April marks
prescribed burn season for the Habitat Strike Team, part of the National Great
Rivers Research and Education Center (NGRRECsm).
are controlled applications of fire to the landscape by a team of experts under
specific weather conditions and is characterized as a low intensity fire, as
opposed to high intensity wildfires that are unintendedly set.
management perspective, fire is one of the most efficient and effective options
to help restore habitat on the landscape,” Conservation Program Manager, Justin
Shew said. “The fire is doing the work, instead of a chemical or chainsaw
controlled by a human; therefore, it covers a lot more ground in the right
Strike Team works within a 90-mile radius of NGRREC’s Field Station, and
depending on seasonal conditions, may conduct or assists on at least 25 burns
in a season, covering over 6,200 acres.
attitude toward prescribe fire appears to be changing,” said Dylan Smith,
Strike Team Senior Assistant. “It seems to be a more widely accepted form of
management as people learn more about it benefits when conducted by trained
Fire was and
continues to be an important part of prairie and forest ecosystems to keep them
healthy. Fire on the landscape helps to:
- Recycle nutrients back into the
soils more quickly
- Keep forest species from
- Lessen the severity of
- Remove unwanted invasive
- Promote native plant growth and
often improve wildlife habitat
For the safety
of crew and surrounding communities, the weather conditions must be within safe
specifications or else the burn gets cancelled. These include 5-15 mile per
hour wind speed coming from a specific and constant direction, a relative
humidity of 30-55%, and predicted stable conditions throughout the day.
“It is important
to determine the appropriate wind directions so as to avoid putting smoke onto
roadways or adjacent structures,” said Phil Rathz, Habitat Senior Project
Assistant. “It is important that we follow proper protocol and procedure to
keep ourselves safe as well as the public.”
typically follows the same procedure.
- Create a burn plan from an
initial site visit with map, required resources, specific weather
conditions and identifying potential hazards.
- Create burn breaks of
appropriate width, these are areas that are cleared of fuel sources such
as leaf litter, dead vegetation, branches/logs or tall grass.
- Start a backfire along the
down-wind burn break. Burning into or against the wind keeps the fire low
and slow burning. This often is done to create a wider burn break and
creates safer conditions before for starting the head fire.
- Light a head fire. This is the
hot fire that will move across the landscape, propelled forward by both
wind and fuel.
- The prescribed burn is complete
with the head fire meets the backfire and all hotspots are extinguished –
also called “mop up”. Prescribed burns, depending acreage and crew size
can easily take upwards of 12 or more hours
to compete safely.
- If snags continue to smolder
after the burn, they are monitored or fully extinguished during favorable
Strike Team partners with Illinois Department of Natural Resources and its
Illinois Recreational Access Program, Illinois Division of Natural Heritage,
and Illinois Nature Preserves Commission.
information on the Habitat Strike Team visit http://www.ngrrec.org/HST/ or contact Shew at (618) 468-2843 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
Lewis and Clark
Community College’s Restoration Ecology program trains students in many of
these practices. Anyone interested can visit https://www.lc.edu/program/restorationecology/ or contact Scott Moss at (618) 468-4875
or email@example.com to learn more.
Great Rivers Research and Education Center (NGRREC ℠ )
in 2002 as a collaborative partnership between the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign and Lewis and Clark Community College, NGRREC is dedicated to
the study of great river systems and the communities that use them. The center
aspires to be a leader in scholarly research, education, and outreach related
to the interconnectedness of large rivers, their floodplains, watersheds, and
their associated communities.