Sunday, February 05, 2017

Settin' the Woods on Fire

As predicted, we witnessed ideal fire weather this past week. Fuel moistures were low, but not in drought in most areas, humidity hovered in the mid-30s% range, and winds were nice and calm. It has been several years since I brought my driptorch to four consecutive fires on four consecutive days. By Thursday afternoon, I was officially exhausted, but thrilled with all the fire on the ground. The Western Ozark Highlands were not the only parts of the region to see fire this week; throughout the state, crews took to the lines to implement this ancient natural disturbance, and with good results and no major problems.

With such mild winter temperatures this season, I was almost expecting to see some greenup in the ground flora. My post-fire patrols didn't reveal a lot of scorched green plants, just the thatch burned off. Mid-March will likely be too late to burn considering the collateral damage, especially if these warm temperatures persist. But this past week was ideal for burning. Next week looks as promising, but we might be getting a bit too dry for woodland fires. I noted three firewhirls while on Tuesday's fireline, but the fire moved so quickly it didn't burn to mineral soil, which is good in the event there were some sedges starting to pop up.

Woodlands interspersed with glades covered in rank warm season grass thatch tends to be what I like to burn the most. The almost predictable fire behavior makes it easy to tell when something may not be going right. This past week burned like clockwork, methodically, cleanly, and completely. I look forward to visiting these and other areas that saw fire recently when spring wildflower season starts in late March. I know what trails to take, what backcountry camping I need to do, and the exact places to find all of Missouri's rich floral diversity that inhabits our special natural places.

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