You may see smoke as the U.S. Forest Service conducts prescribed burns to reduce the severity of wildfires and promote healthy forests for plants and animals.
“Our primary concern is always for fire fighter and public safety,” said Daron Reynolds, Fire Management Officer with the National Forests in Mississippi.
Prescribed fire, also known as controlled burning, refers to the controlled use of fire by a team of experts to safely reduce excessive amounts of grass and brush. Prescribed fire helps reduce the catastrophic damage of wildfire on our lands and surrounding communities. Pre-planned prescribed burns are carefully analyzed and conducted under specific weather conditions.
“Prescribed fire plays an integral part in reducing fuels, improving all wildlife habitat, controlling competing vegetation, controlling disease and improving forage,” said Reynolds.
Plants and animals native to southern forests and grasslands depend on natural fire cycles, which are mimicked through the use of prescribed fires to balance habitat and food sources. Prescribed burning is also one of the most effective land management tools used in preventing the outbreak and spread of wildfires.
“Because prescribed fires depend on having the correct weather conditions, the decision to burn is made very close to the actual burn time,” said Reynolds. “Fire managers study variables such as temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, how smoke will disperse and rainfall patterns.” Prescribed fires are conducted by experienced, qualified firefighters who work as a team to ignite, monitor, and ensure that the fire stays within set boundaries.
Drivers and residents are reminded of the risk of smoke on the road during prescribed burns. If smoky conditions develop, drivers should reduce their speed and use low beam lights to become more visible on the road.
The National Forests in Mississippi is among those leading the nation in prescribed fire. Prescribed burning is conducted during annual rotations in which about 200,000 acres of national forest lands are burned on the National Forests in Mississippi. National Forests in Mississippi include six forests: Bienville, Delta, Holly Springs, Homochitto, Tombigbee, and the De Soto (which also includes the Chickasawhay Ranger District). For more information, contact a National Forest in Mississippi Ranger District.