Workshop offers certification for using prescribed fire as management tool

Controlled burning is a very useful tool in land management, but its use requires careful planning and preparation.

Guys like to play with fire. I know this from years of observation and plenty of personal experience. I have helped to build brush piles nearly as big as a barn, and on at least one other occasion, burned an old barn that more closely resembled a brush pile than a building.

The desire to stoke flames may be attributable to some caveman ancestry, and I know I’ve been willing to poke a fire since a very young age. I vividly recall being told by my uncles that I risked wetting the bed for playing with the fire. I also remember that the warning barely deterred me.

A well placed hollow log can provide a chimney effect on a standard campfire.

These days I can hardly sit around a campfire without looking for ways to rearrange the logs and coals to generate more heat or flame. I address finding the perfect place for the next piece of firewood as an art form or modern marvel of structural engineering.

Fortunately I have never been a party to a fire that got out of control, but I have personally seen the devastation that a wildfire can do to a landscape. Two different farms where I have hunted were affected by blazes about 20 years ago. Those two incidents were nothing like the destruction caused in places like California and Colorado in recent years.

While the scars of the fires we experienced two decades ago can still be found in the woods, the blackened forests recovered and benefited from the burning. We annually use fire as a tactic to manage native grass growth in the largest field on the farm. None of us has formal training for the activity, but certification is available.

Plowed furrows as a fire break, water sprayers and other tools, with plenty of help are key components to managing a controlled burn.

The state Department of Conservation is planning several upcoming workshops in the St. Louis region offering training for anyone interested in learning how to properly utilize prescribed fire for land management. The program in Jefferson County is planned from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, March 18. Online registration is required at https://short.mdc.mo.gov/4ZC.

Unfortunately all of the spots at the Jefferson County program are already spoken for, but adding your name the waiting list could increase the opportunity for another program, or set you up for alerts further in advance of future events.

Fire can be a tool for controlling growth in grasslands, glades, prairies and woodlands. Workshop participants will learn about how to safely utilize fire to benefit natural habitats.

The prescribed burn certification consists of an online training program which can be completed at the participant’s own pace, but must be finished prior to attending the in-person field event. After signing up for the field portion, information will be sent on how to complete the required online portion of the training.

The field event portions of the workshops are all scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and each has its own registration link. Other regional sessions are planned in Lincoln County on Wednesday, Feb. 23, https://short.mdc.mo.gov/4ZD; on Friday, Feb. 25, 1 in Franklin County, https://short.mdc.mo.gov/4Zz; and on Friday, April 1, in Warren County, https://short.mdc.mo.gov/4ZK, and Crawford County, https://short.mdc.mo.gov/44k.

The workshops are free to private landowners but cost $25 for contractors. Advanced online registration is required using the links provided. Upon successful completion of the field events, participants receive permanent certification.

I am sure there is nothing in the curriculum that addresses the other tool that we use fire for on the farm. We always pack out the trash we bring in, but over time we have had the need to eliminate old furniture or other flammable materials. The cabin fire-ring has eliminated items from dresser drawers to dog houses. An old sofa is awaiting its turn on the burn pile when the weather conditions are favorable and enough responsible adults are available to keep the blaze in check.

Originally published by Leader Publications on Feb. 10, 2022.

Published by John J. Winkelman

A freelance outdoor writer for more than 30 years

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