STONE COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The prescribed fire season is underway for National Forests in Mississippi. Following the cold conditions over the weekend, Monday was a perfect day for the USDA Forest Service to conduct a 450 acre prescribed burn in the De Soto National Forest.
Over the next few months controlled burns are planned for 60,000 acres in the De Soto National Forest. District Fire Management Officer for the Forest Service Jay Boykin said these fires eliminate thick brush, sticks and limbs. He added it was necessary to make it easier for wildlife to roam free, set up possible future planting and reduce the risk of unwanted fires.
"If we can burn it under the conditions that we favor rather than when somebody else comes along and decides to burn it then we can do it in a time when it's much less dangerous to both the firefighters and the public," said Boykin.
For the first time since last year's helicopter crash in the De Soto National Forest, Ariel ignition was used to start Monday's prescribed burn. It gave Boykin a chance to reflect on the crash that claimed a pair of lives.
"What I was thinking is those are some pretty courageous guys working on the helicopter crew today," said Boykin.
Even with last year's disaster Boykin thinks using helicopters is the best option when starting large prescribed burns.
"If we try to do it just by using people on the ground then you wind up with people spending a lot of time maybe in the middle of the burn or in an area that's not necessarily safe," said Boykin.
Following the tragedy Boykin and his co-workers have studied ways to make their work environment safer.
"We have learned quite a bit from it," said Boykin. "We've implemented quite a few different things that we think will help us be safer and help us and help us react better in the event there is some accident whether it's involving aircraft or not."
The Forest Service will continue scheduling prescribed burns until May or early June.