Controlled burns are a tool the Forest Service uses to reduce heavy fuel loads of overgrown vegetation, to protect nearby homes from uncontrolled wildfire and to enhance wildlife habitat and the overall health of the forest.
Certain environmental conditions must be met before the Forest Service can conduct controlled burns. Months of planning are involved and weather conditions must be right before the controlled burns can occur. Forest Service specialists look at factors such as wind direction, wind speed, temperature, humidity and ground moisture. Controlled burns will only be conducted when the correct weather indices are obtained. The controlled burn plan ensures all precautions are taken to manage the fire safely.
Partner agencies which will be helping conduct these controlled burns include the Georgia Forestry Commission, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and local Volunteer Fire Departments.
Fire has a long history of transforming landscapes by influencing vegetation. As time went on and human populations began to increase, fires began to be seen by the public as destructive and state and federal agencies were created to promote fire suppression. Over time, this exclusion of fire has led to a dramatic change in our forests.
Land managers now recognize that fire used in controlled situations can promote healthy natural systems. A series of low intensity fires can thin crowded forests, resulting in less severe disease and pest outbreaks. Fire promotes native grasses and wildflowers and helps to regenerate oaks, which in turn increases wildlife populations. Controlled burns also reduce leaf litter and woody fuels that increase wildfire intensity.
Most of today’s forests have a dense understory, less plant diversity and are composed largely of fire intolerant tree species. The controlled use of fire, under the direction of skilled resource managers, promotes wildlife diversity and healthy forests.