Weather permitting, the Forest Service plans to conduct a prescribed fire in the Big Mountain Area southeast of Cherry Grove, West Virginia. Two burn blocks, a total of 473 acres, are scheduled for burning in April or May 2018.
“Our goal is to restore the historical fire regime, improve conditions for oak regeneration, and enhance wildlife habitat in the Big Mountain area,” said Troy Waskey, Cheat-Potomac District Ranger. “These prescribed fires will also reduce the potential and severity of wildfires in the future.”
The use of prescribed fire was analyzed in the Big Mountain Project Environmental Assessment and a burn plan was prepared over the winter. Burn plans consider public safety, protection of private property, temperature, humidity, wind, moisture of the vegetation, and conditions for the dispersal of smoke. Prescribed fire specialists compare conditions on the ground to those outlined in burn plans before deciding whether to burn on a given day. If conditions are not right for a burn that will create the desired outcomes safely, burning will not take place.
Control lines will be established around each burn block days or weeks before the actual prescribed fire. Control lines contain the fire by removing fuel sources (leaves, brush, etc.) in the line and are created mechanically, using hand tools or heavy equipment. Control lines are often strengthened by “blacklining” or burning areas adjacent to the control line to remove fuels prior to igniting the entire block.
Local radio stations will be alerted to burn activities ahead of time. Signs will be posted on roads near all prescribed burn areas before and when burning is in progress. Area residents and travelers through the area may see or smell smoke from these prescribed fires. If you encounter smoke on the highway, slow down, turn on your vehicle’s lights and drive appropriately for the conditions.