More than just a pile: Prescribed Burn 4

As I’ve waxed more than  is probably necessary about in the past few posts, we’ve been in a bit of a work-rut lately. The truth of the matter is that wintertime is when burning piles makes the most sense and so we took advantage of the often snow-covered ground as much as we were able. Making and burning piles every day had a few notable advantages, it gave those of us who needed it (myself very much included) ample time to practice using and maintaining our chainsaws, it allowed us to stay warm while being fantastically productive during the cold winter months, and it made me pretty much impervious to the smell of own hair burning. Take that last one as you will.

At any rate, although there are plenty of great things about burning piles, it really just isn’t the same as helping with a proper prescribed burn, so when I found out that we’d be returning to that sort of job today I was thrilled.

After collecting everything we’d need for the day and donning an extra layer of protective gear (beyond what we wore every day this winter) We traveled to the Doane Rock area in Eastham to await our exact destination and final instructions. It turns out that the Cape Cod National seashore has more than a few burn plots already established in that area, and we weren’t sure exactly where we’d be working first.
Once we established our objective (and walked around the perimeter as a group) we split into two teams and began using drip torches to burn strips along the outer edge of the flanks, progressing around the burn area in tandem until we met again on the other side of the field. Each strip started out as a 2 by 10-20 foot rectangle placed in such a way that the fire was encouraged to burn inwards towards the center of the plot while leaving a solid line of nonflammable black ground in its wake.

One of the strips we lit. This section of the plot had a fairly solid canopy, despite the lack of leaves on the trees, without as much sun on the ground the flames here were a bit smaller and we ended up using more fuel than we'd planned to keep things moving.

One of the strips we lit. This section of the plot had a fairly solid canopy, despite the lack of leaves on the trees, without as much sun on the ground the flames here were a bit smaller and we ended up using more fuel than we’d planned to keep things moving.

Here we are at the far side of the burn plot from where we started, at this point we'd just met up with the other team and were watching the fire work it way into the center of the plot.

Here we are at the far side of the burn plot from where we started, at this point we’d just met up with the other team and were watching the fire work it way into the center of the plot. The black layer coating the hillside is made up of burned up material, which is (obviously) naturally fire-resistant.

I'm slowly accepting the fact that I'm not going to get many fantastic fire pictures (especially not with a cell phone camera). This is an attempt at getting a shot at the advancing flame front.

I’m slowly accepting the fact that I’m not going to get many fantastic fire pictures (especially not with a cell phone camera). This is an attempt at getting a shot at the flame front during a moment when I was out of the smoke and without an immediate task.

As the strips burned inwards we extinguished the flames that edged out of the boundaries we’d established during our pre-burn perimeter walk. Eventually, the fronts progressing from each flank met each other in the center of the plot and (with all the fuel in the area consumed) petered out without much further interference from us. The whole process (from the perimeter walk to the last wisp of smoke) took a few hours, though it certainly felt shorter.

Finally, here the vast majority of the fire is out.

Finally, here the vast majority of the fire is out.

From here we moved on to a second burn, but I’ll save those pictures for later.

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Posted on March 18, 2013, in Americorps Cape Cod and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Hello Tyler,

    It would appear that our paths have crossed here. Not personally, but in terms of service. I’ve also accepted the Fire Crew job for next year and was wondering if you had any time to talk via, e-mail or the like. Please contact me when you have some spare time XXXXXX@XXX.com

    (Removed your email address so you don’t get pestered by spammers) -T

    • Hey, sure you can email me whenever. I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have. My email address is in the contact me section.

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