Crews burn 2,500+ acres in Conecuh

Published 12:02 am Friday, March 1, 2013

Forest service fire crews were busy conducting a 2,552-acre prescribed control burn on Wednesday in Covington County in the Conecuh National Forest.

The burn was located in the Blue Lake and Nellie Pond area in the Blue Springs Wildlife Management Area.

Conecuh National Forest district fire management officer Mike Heard said Thursday’s prescribed burn was needed for “fuel reduction.”

“We’ve got to reduce the fuel down,” Heard said. “If we didn’t burn it, then it would just go all over. This particular compartment (along Hwy. 137) has some (threatened and endangered) species.

“It has a couple of ponds for the gopher frogs,” he said. “So, just for the aesthetics, too, we try to keep it down.”

Heard said the burn’s aim also is to help establish a grassy under story.

Forest crews will work the west boundary that is Hwy. 137, the east boundary that is County Road 17, the south boundary that is Camp Creek and the north boundary that is the Conecuh National Forest.

To help with the burns, the forestry service uses a helicopter to fly over the acreage. The helicopter, which has a pilot, a navigator and a forestry service member, drops what are “premo balls” to help ignite fires.

These premo balls, which forestry crewmen call red dragon eggs, are made with potassium permanganate inside of a plastic shell.

Each ball is then injected with antifreeze and dropped through a shoot from a premo plastic sphere dispenser, mounted on the helicopter.

“We’re going to get a pretty good burn by using the helicopter,” Heard said. “It’s flying in the compartment along Hwy. 137, from east to west.”

Heard said the recent rain has helped because it’s created drains to act as barriers for the fires.

“It hasn’t hurt,” he said. “It’s helped us. We use a lot of drains to hold on to natural bearings. We’ve got water in the drain, so the fire shouldn’t go across it.”

Heard said by his calculations, the county saw some 13 inches of rain during the month of February.

The wind is expected to be out of the northwest and will carry the smoke southeast toward Florala, according to Conecuh National Forest officials.

Officials encourages drivers who encounter smoke on roadways to slow down, turn on their low-beam headlights and use caution when encountering prescribed burn operations.