JONESBORO, IL (KFVS) - You may see a lot of smoke if you travel through parts of Union or Alexander Counties Wednesday east of Route 3.
The U.S. Forest Service plans a massive prescribed burn in an area of the Shawnee National Forest stretching all the way from Berryville in Union County to Grapevine Trail in Alexander County.
Forest Service Fuels Specialist Scott Crist says this is the largest prescribed burn in the Shawnee in recent history. Forest Service crews plan to burn 1750 acres in all. It's an area Crist says hasn't been burned since 1995.
The prescribed burn has two purposes, according to Crist: to clear away beech and maple trees and allow more fire resistant oaks to flourish, and to clear away nearly two decades of potential wildfire fuel on the forest floor in the form of downed branches, trees and leaf litter.
The fire is expected to produce a lot of smoke that will be visible mainly by mid-afternoon. Fire crews will monitor the smoke, but the worst of it is expected to affect only unoccupied Forest Service land.
Crist says there should be enough lift in the atmosphere and wind to carry the smoke away from populated areas. That said, the communities of Berryville, Ware and Wolf Lake will likely see and smell some smoke.
The burn will begin at approximately 9 a.m. following a 7:30 a.m. briefing at the Forest Service Jonesboro Ranger Station. A south wind is expected so fire crews will begin in the Berryville area and work their way south toward Old Cape Road and Grape Vine Trail.