Illinois Outdoors at
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Chris' Camera Bag

A Photo Web log by Chris Young

Renewal with fire

March 20, 2010 at 08:11 AM

Illinois hunting and fishing

Many of us were bombarded as kids with the Smoky the Bear advertisements urging us to prevent forest fires. It’s true that fires set carelessly and in improper conditions are dangerous to life and property. But used the right way, fire is a natural tool to keep our native prairies and woods healthy.

Fires keep woody plants from invading prairies and help expose the soil to the sun’s warmth, stimulating plant growth.

Fires are conducted before most critters are out of hibernation or before birds have begun nesting. Most burns happen in spring, although the native Americans burned often in the fall.

Today’s fires are conducted within fairly strict ranges of temperature, humidity and wind speed and direction. Wide fire breaks are created (see the mowed path in the picture on the right). Experienced crews start with backfires to create wide expanses of “black” before lighting the head fire that burns with the wind. Once the head fire starts, the burn is over within moments.

My first thought was that this picture was not as sharp as I would have liked, until I realized I was shooting through an awful lot of heat.

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