Prescribed burning to begin in Conecuh National Forest

Published 1:42 am Tuesday, January 12, 2016


Get ready to see some smoke as the U.S.D.A. Forest Service announced Monday its plan to burn some 117,000 acres throughout the state’s national forests during the next six months.

Depending on the weather, some 25,500 acres of the Conecuh National Forest, which is located in Covington and Escambia counties, will be among those to undergo the transformation.

“Fire is used as a critical management tool to improve plant and animal habitat and the resiliency of forest landscapes to withstand drought, insects and disease,” said Forest Service spokeswoman Takela Underwood. “At the same time, prescribed fire reduces the accumulation of hazardous fuels or forest undergrowth decreasing the threat of future wildfires.”

While no specific date for the local burns were released, Underwood said all controlled fire activity is dependent on the availability of trained Forest Service personnel, equipment, weather, fuels and conditions that minimize smoke impacts as best as possible.

“During a controlled burn, the public may notice smoke in various parts of the national forest,” she said. “Drivers should use their low beam lights if they encounter smoke on the road.”

The prescribed burning continues all year long, but the concentration is mainly during the winter and spring, January through May, Conecuh National Forest Wildlife Biologist Steve Johnson said.

“We concentrate on the dormant season when there is very little vegetation growth, and most everything is dead,” Johnson said. “We’ll burn into the growing seasons, May and June, but run into not having enough good weather.”

The fire specialists follow burning restrictions to prevent any potential for the fires to move out of the prescribed areas.

Johnson said they look at wind speed and direction, relative humidity levels and how recent rains are and when rains are expected next.

There are 84,000 acres in the Conecuh National Forest, and Johnson said about a third of the forest will be targeted.

“The vast majority of the forest is in a two or three year rotation, and what we burn now will be burned again in the next three years,” Johnson said. “The rotation time is that short because of the longleaf pine ecosystem being accustomed to the burning.”

Maps that highlight controlled burn areas can be viewed at under the “Know Before You Go” section.

For more information about the scheduled burn, contact the office at 334.222.2555.