Environmentalists, foresters stress importance of prescribed burns - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Environmentalists, foresters stress importance of prescribed burns

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By Christian Jennings - bio | email

Baker County, GA (WALB) - What may look like a forest fire burning out-of-control is actually a prescribed fire.

"It's a safe way to apply a natural process," said Mark Melvin of the Jones Ecological Research Center.

Every year starting in January and wrapping up in early April. experienced burners and experts with the Georgia Forestry Commission start fires to benefit you, and the environment.

The fires eliminate fuels from the ground like this leaf or pine needles, which lowers the risk of wildfires.

And wildfires can last several weeks and put thousands of people in danger.

"Those fires are much more difficult to control and they produce much more smoke than a prescribed fire," said Melvin.

Besides protecting people, foresters say Georgia wildlife, like quail, turkey, and deer, depend on their efforts.

"Many of the plants and animals evolved in a fire maintained system so they depend on frequent fire for their survival," said Melvin.

But are these controlled burns really safe? "This is applied by trained fire managers and under specific conditions to meet specific objectives and actually benefit and mimic these natural processes that these forests evolved in," said Melvin.

And you can even do it yourself. In fact, foresters encourage it. "The first thing they need to do is obtain a permit from the ga forestry commission. they need to have a plan, and they need to be very aware of the weather," said Greg Findley of the Georgia Forestry Commission. 

A day with cold steady winds moving in one direction is ideal.

But if you're going to do this yourself, make sure you have fire breaks, and a way to contain the fire. Then you can do your part preventing fires with fire.

In Georgia, a little over 1 million acres are burned annually. Half of that occurs in Southwest Georgia.

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