Photo of the Week – November 11, 2016

On Wednesday of this week, we took advantage of the eerily warm November temperatures to conduct our second prescribed fire of the fall.  This one will help concentrate some spring grazing in an area where we want to suppress grass dominance and rehabilitate forb diversity.  The fire was also a great opportunity for further training of some young conservation staff.  In addition to Eric and Katharine, our two Hubbard Fellows, we also had three young interns/technicians from a couple of our conservation partners, the Crane Trust and Audubon’s Rowe Sanctuary.

Katharine Hogan, one of our Hubbard Fellows, ignites the west flank of the fire.

Katharine Hogan, one of our Hubbard Fellows, ignites the west flank of the fire.

A firefighter in a UTV with a slip-on pump unit follows Katharine's ignition and prevents the fire from creeping into the mowed firebreak. By this stage in the fire, the wind was mostly blowing the fire into the unit, making this job easier.

A firefighter in a UTV with a slip-on pump unit follows Katharine’s ignition and prevents the fire from creeping into the mowed firebreak. By this stage in the fire, the wind was mostly blowing the fire away from the break and into the unit, making this job easier.

Here, Eric, our other Hubbard Fellow, ignites the head fire, which runs quickly with a tailwind until it is stopped by the backing fire and blackened area at the far end of the unit.

Here, Eric Chien, our other Hubbard Fellow, ignites the head fire, which runs quickly with a tailwind until it is stopped by the backing fire and blackened area at the far end of the unit.  He is followed by another UTV and pump unit.

Nothing to do now but watch.

Nothing to do now but watch.

At the end of every fire, we hold an "after action review" in which every member of the crew shares what went well, what they learned, and what might help us do better in the future.

At the end of every fire, we hold an “After Action Review” in which every member of the crew shares what went well, what they learned, and what might help us do better in the future.

Anyone who has seen prairie fires up close gains an appreciation of their speed, heat, and power.  Harnessing a force like that to achieve prairie management objectives takes careful planning, solid training and good equipment.  The fire this week went as smoothly as could be hoped for, but  – as with every burn I lead – my stomach was still knotted up until the last of the big flames had been extinguished.  After we were done, I took a leisurely and therapeutic walk around the perimeter of the burned area, both to confirm that everything was secure and to envision the positive impact the burn will make as next year’s growing season begins.

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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.
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3 Responses to Photo of the Week – November 11, 2016

  1. Katie Heithoff says:

    I helped with a controlled burn managed by Pheasants Forever on some property we own in Wayne County. It really is an experience that puts your heart in your throat at times – but so good for grassland in the long run.

    • James McGee says:

      I second Katie’s comment. I’ve burned on day’s with lots of wind where the burn boss said if we weren’t worried then he did not want us to help. His team was experienced enough to get us volunteers through the job safely. However, he wanted to make sure we all knew enough to see how the conditions could be dangerous.

  2. steve clubine says:

    You must respect fire but not fear it. If you fear it, you will eventually get in trouble. Those who have spent most of their life suppressing fire are poor ones to help on prescribed fires.

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