Georgia is prescribing fire for landowners - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Georgia is prescribing fire for landowners

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By Jay Polk - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) – The wildfire season in south Georgia is coming soon and many landowners will be trying to reduce the fire danger by starting fires on their property.

Georgia has millions of acres of forest. And every year thousands of those acres are lost to wildfires.

According to Tom Lambert, Chief Ranger for the Georgia Forestry Commission's Dougherty Unit, "approximately 58,000 acres," go up in flames.

While that number seems low, it only takes one fire to cause major damage. Like the fires in 2007 in and around the Okefenokee Swamp.

"It burned over 560,000 acres," said Lambert.

The chances for wildfires go up during the late Winter and early Spring. Part of the reason is that some of the vegetation in the forest dies, leaving leaves, twigs, sticks and even whole trees withered and brown; and leaving a potential problem for landowners.

Dried up vegetation can certainly be a fire hazard and turn a small fire into an out of control blaze is you're not careful. But there is one way to reduce the chances of seeing a damaging wildfire on your property.

That way is called prescribed fire. Strict controls are placed on these types of fires and the forecast has to be just right.

"You're looking at what the wind direction will be, what the wind speed is, how much humidity is in the air and what kind of fuel moisture you have," said Lambert.

While it doesn't seem logical to prevent fires by starting them, getting rid of the thick undergrowth by prescribed fire has its benefits for both the flora and the fauna.

Lambert said, "it enhances the environment for that wildlife by enhancing the new vegetation that is grown."

To make the public aware of its benefits, this week has been declared to be Prescribed Fire Awareness Week in Georgia.

"The governor has recognized the importance of prescribed burning as a tool for forestry," said Lambert.

While it seems like a fire is a bad thing, a fire prescribed by the Forestry Commission is one way to make sure that a fire prescribed by nature can be in control, instead of out of control.

About 1.5 million acres are burned by prescribed fires each year in Georgia. It's actually been too wet and windy to do burns this week.

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