(KFVS) - Mark Twain National Forest's spring prescribed fire season will begin as weather allows. Prescribed fires are used primarily to help reduce the threat of wildfires and to improve the health of native plants and wildlife habitat in the Forest. Deer, turkey, quail and other species benefit when the plants they depend on for food or cover are rejuvenated by the use of fire.
A prescribed fire is one that is ignited by highly-trained fire personnel under very specific fuel and weather conditions. "We work with the weather, not against it; and make sure that we conduct prescribed burns at the right time to be both effective and safe," stated Jim Cornelius, Fire Management Officer for the Mark Twain National Forest.
Each prescribed burn will be conducted when favorable atmospheric ventilation (such as high-elevation breezes) are occurring to pull the smoke away and minimize smoke impacts to local communities. Although some smoke may be visible and affect nearby communities, the Forest Service strives to keep smoke impacts within federal and state air quality standards.
Signs will be posted on roads near all prescribed burn areas prior to and when burning is in progress. When encountering the signs, drivers are asked to slow down in case shifting winds increase the smoke along roadways near the burn areas. If the public encounters smoke on the highways, slow down, turn on your vehicle's lights and drive appropriately for the conditions.
Firefighters on the Mark Twain National Forest will look for opportunities to conduct several prescribed burns in the next few months. A list of planned prescribed fire operations on the Mark Twain National Forest is posted on the web and can be found by going to our home page at www.fs.usda.gov/mtnf, then clicking on the "Prescribed Fires" link on the right-hand side. For more information about any particular prescribed fire project, please contact your local Ranger District office. A list of office phone number can be found on our website at https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/mtnf/about-forest/offices.
Prescribed fires lit by hand crews and by helicopter operations are planned for multiple locations around the Forest. Neighboring landowners will be contacted by the Forest Service prior to ignitions.
Burn objectives are primarily to reduce the fuel loading in the hardwoods and glades, while stimulating the grass/forbs plant community and maintaining the open areas by top-killing invading woody species. This promotes wildlife diversity and habitat. Prescribed fire also diversifies grass and other plant communities. In more forested areas, the objective is to mimic the historical fire occurrence and improve forest health by clearing the forest floor for pine regeneration.
Mark Twain National Forest is the largest public land manager in Missouri with 1.5 million acres in 29 counties in southern and central Missouri.