Deer Island blaze a controlled burn by DMR

By Steve Phillips – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Thick plumes of smoke billowed skyward from the east end of Deer Island late Wednesday morning, visible for several miles on this clear day.

The DMR set fire to 30 acres; a prescribed burn designed to improve the island habitat.

"This particular area is an isolated area that got hit very hard by Katrina. So hard, in fact, that a lot of the live trees didn't survive and weren't able to re-seed naturally," said Lauren Thompson with the Department of Marine Resources. "So by doing this prescribed burn, we'll be able to clear out the brush and also the storm debris and make way for us to come back and plant pine seedlings."

Fire is often used as a land management tool by the Forestry Service and Sand Hill Crane Refuge.  And the same benefits come from burning island brush and vegetation: The burn encourages new growth and eliminates fuel for wildfire.

Prescribed burns have been used on other coastal preserves, but this is the first prescribed burn on Deer Island, though there have been several wild fires on the island over the years.

A marsh planting project on the east end of Deer Island took place in the spring of 2005. Unfortunately, the island was battered by Katrina just a few months later.

Nearly five years later, Deer Island remains in recovery.  The prescribed burn is one part of the ongoing restoration.

"This is just a small part of the overall restoration of Deer Island. The west end of Deer Island is going to be restored and we're going to pump up the beach on the south side of the island," said Thompson.

The 30 acre burn on the eastern end of the island, will clear the way for a project to re-plant pine seedlings in that area, sometime this spring.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.