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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Flat Aggie on a Prescribed Burn

This week's Flat Aggie post comes to us thanks to The Prairie Project at Oklahoma State University. The project has some great learning resources for kids K-12.  Follow them on Facebook and you might be surprised what you learn and every once in a while they have a contest with prizes.   A special thanks to Blayr for taking such good care of Flat Aggie and for being persistent in helping us with the technical difficulties when Gmail hid the report from me. -A Kansas Farm Mom

A few days before the burn, I showed Flat Aggie how to check the weather to make sure the forecast was still the same and everything was good to burn.

Prior to the burn, I got Flat Aggie fitted with his own prescribed fire shirt. Some people wear clothing made out of Nomex, a material that is fire retardant. However, Nomex clothing is not mandatory to burn, as a matter of fact, 100% cotton works just fine. Just make sure that clothing doesn’t have any frays, rips or tears. I showed Flat Aggie what I wear on a burn, jeans (sometimes Nomex pants in the summer), a yellow button down fire shirt, leather boots with good soles and gloves. I always tell people that Nomex clothing is not required, we are trying to get as many people to use prescribed burning, and if extra cost in clothing is going to hinder them from burning, just wear 100% cotton clothing covering your arms and legs, leather boots and gloves.

The day before the burn, Flat Aggie and I drank a lot of water. You can’t make up for getting hydrated after the burn starts. Hydration begins in days and hours prior to the burn. So remember, always hydrate before a burn.

The morning of the burn, we got up bright and early, buckled up and headed to the burn unit. I think Flat Aggie took a nap on the way, it’s ok, he had a long day ahead of him.

Once we arrived, we met the burn crew, looked at maps to go over the piece of land we were going to burn and talked about the plan. The wind was out of the west southwest, so one guy on a four wheeler equipped with a drip torch started the backfire in the southeast corner and headed north toward the northeast corner. Once he reached the northeast corner, he turned around and lit on the way back, making a second strip to create more burned area. Once he reached the starting point in the southeast corner he headed back north for one final, third strip. Once he made it back to the northeast corner he stopped and the group let the fire back a little more. Once everything looked good, one large water truck laid a wet line and a guy on a four-wheeler headed west behind him, lighting fire off of the water line. 

Then another water truck followed them up and made sure the fire didn’t cross the wet line. A few more water trucks followed them, spraying out any fire that crept across the line. When the crew got to the northwest corner they turned south. About a quarter of the way south, they hit a draw that was too large for vehicles to cross. So they made sure the fire was good and hurried all the way back around the unit to the other side of the draw. All but two water trucks and a guy on a four-wheeler went back to the west side to finish lighting the west side. One man and two water trucks stayed in the southeast corner and started lighting fire off of the road, headed west. The plan was to bring both fires, from the north and from the east, together in the southwest corner at the same time to tie in the head fire.

After the burn was completed, everyone sat down for lunch. Flat Aggie and I headed out to take pictures of some bison. He got to see hundreds of bison, grazing where they pleased. There are no interior fences, so they are able to travel where they please. Usually they follow recently burned areas.

As an activity, have the teacher draw the burn unit on the whiteboard or chalkboard and have the students work together and follow the instructions above to see how the prescribed fire was conducted. This is what burn crews do before a fire to make sure everyone on the crew understands the plan. Below is a blank canvas to show the teacher shape of the burn unit.

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