Fire managers on the Hoosier National Forest intend to begin utilizing prescribed fire as a forest management tool in the coming weeks.
At this time, there are prescribed burn areas planned in Jackson, Brown, Crawford, Lawrence, Orange, Martin and Perry counties. The prescribed burn in Jackson County is planned for the Fork Ridge area in Salt Creek Township west of Houston. That burn of 659 acres will be for oak-hickory regeneration.
All project initiation is dependent upon several factors, including but not limited to favorable weather and site conditions, according to a news release from the forest service.
Fire managers will be evaluating conditions to ensure compliance with policy and utilization of best management practices. Test burns will occur prior to igniting any unit to monitor fire behavior and smoke lift and dispersion.
Each of the areas has been identified to improve wildlife habitat or restore woodlands. In some cases, wetlands or barrens are being restored. In others, the fire is used for wildlife opening or dam maintenance.
There are 20 sites that are available to burn, encompassing a total of 4,700 acres. The more areas the Hoosier National Forest has ready to burn, the more likely on any given day and weather forecast forest service staff will be able to find an area that is appropriate to burn.
With only a limited number of days before green-up of the forest, staff want to maximize their opportunities. Wind direction is often the limiting factor due to adjacent roads or private homes so the Hoosier National Forest prioritizes areas.
Each treatment 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 is a significant number of burning trees in the interior of a burn unit, the area may be closed for several days for public safety. Trails may be temporarily closed if burn areas are in close proximity. Signs will be posted along the fire line and at any logical entry points into the area.
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.
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 is encouraged to contact the forest service.
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.
Up-to-date information and maps also may be found at inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5645.