Prescribed Burns Prevent Forest Fires

More than three thousand acres of Desoto National Forest went up in flames Monday.

And it burned under the watchful eye of crews from the U-S Forest Service.

In fact, they not only watched the forest burn, they started the fire.

It's called a "prescribed burn". Southern Region foresters will torch some 60 thousand acres this year alone.

Furious flames devour acres of dry forest floor not far from Highway 67 in northern Harrison County. It sounds somewhat strange, but foresters started this blaze to prevent future wildfires. They call it a "hazardous fuel reduction".

"And what that means is we're trying to reduce the fuels, the leaves and the litter. Straw. Things like that that burn. If we have a wildfire and we burn this area, either it won't burn or it will burn at a low intensity and we'll be able to handle the fire a lot better," said fire management officer, Jay Boykin.

Mike Lick operates a special "flame thrower" mounted on the back of a four wheeler. He set fire around the perimeter of the burn area. And while it looks purely destructive, burning off the underbrush actually helps renew the forest floor.

"Come back here in another month and this will be all green. And there will be a lot of grasses out here, wildflowers coming up. It's amazing. Right now it's black and kind of burnt looking. But come back in another four to five weeks. It'll be looking good," said Lick.

Prescribed burns are even more important these days because of something foresters call the "urban interface". That simply means more people are choosing to live close to the national forests. And that means any risk of wildfires, is also a risk to their homes.

"If we can go ahead and keep these areas burned, then it reduces the risk a lot. And we're trying to do that as much as possible," said Boykin.