Unseasonably warm temperatures and low humidity have Hoosier National Forest staff planning prescribed burns earlier than normal.
Fuels specialist Jeremy Kolaks said Tuesday that prescribed burns usually don’t happened until March, but some were planned for this week.
“Each burn area requires a different ‘prescription,’ which determines what wind direction and speed, temperature and fuel moisture are required for any given burn to be ignited,” he said.
Forest staff then just wait for the right weather to burn. Test burns occur prior to igniting any unit to monitor fire behavior and smoke lift and dispersion.
Kolaks said this early in the year, the prescribed burn areas will be grassland areas.
“They dry out first after a rain, and with the shorter day length, we can get in, get the line around them and get them burned before the humidity comes up at the end of the day,” he said.
He said the woodland areas will likely need to wait until later in the spring.
At this time, prescribed burns are planned in Jackson, Brown, Crawford, Lawrence, Martin, Monroe, Orange and Perry counties. Each of the areas has been identified to improve wildlife habitat or woodland restoration. In some cases, wetlands or barrens are being restored. In others, the fire is used for opening or dam maintenance.
Kolaks said the size of the planned areas varies from 12 acres to 770 acres. There are 16 total areas that are available to burn, a total of 3,985 acres.
He said with only a limited number of days before green-up, staff want to maximize their opportunities. He said wind direction is often the limiting factor with adjacent roads or private homes so the Hoosier prioritizes areas.
Each area will be closed to the public on the day of the burn and for some time after the burn until the area is considered safe. If there are a significant number of burning trees in the interior of a burn area, the areas may be closed for several days for public safety.
The exact date of each burn is dependent on weather and fuel conditions. Forest staff notifies the public in the immediate area of the prescribed burn. If forest neighbors wish to know the specific date of the ignition, they can call the forest dispatch office to be informed once the decision is made to burn.
Kolaks said anyone with medical issues who might be affected by smoke, such as asthma or emphysema, who live immediately around where a prescribed burn is planned to contact the forest service.
“We want to do everything we can to minimize effects on our neighbors,” he said.
For questions on the prescribed burns, to request notification or to report medical conditions, contact the Indiana Interagency Coordination Center Dispatcher at 812-547-9262.