It’s that time of year again when the dried matted native grasses are burnt off to allow for the fresh new spring growth. Spring burning also kills off any young trees thereby keeping the prairie from turning into a woodland. My brother in law, Gerald, takes care of a piece of land that was seeded years ago to native grass, and every spring he burns off part of it. Harland and Charlie, our neighbor, both wearing their fireman’s hats for the day, help out. They bring out a couple of the fire trucks to be on hand just in case. Burns are done in the early evening when the wind dies down. The fire is started on the downwind side of the area to be burned so that the fire has to burn into the wind ensuring it will move slowly making it easier to control.
Harland gathers dry grass with a pitchfork, sets it alight, and then walks along the edge of the burn area shaking the burning hay off the pitchfork. This is how the fire is spread.
Within minutes, flames and billowing smoke fill the air. The heat is tremendous and we back away.
But the dried grasses burn fast, and soon the fire dies down….
leaving a smoking blackened field.
Then the guys move to an area alongside a pond and start a burn there.
Here, water is used to keep the fire within the area just around the pond.
Harland continues to light the fire along the edge.
and then uses a fire hose to keep the fire from spreading to the wooded area that lies off to his right.
Once lit, the fire spreads quickly.
Harland continues ahead of the fire lighting the edge as he goes.
The area quickly burns down and we’re almost done…
All that’s left is to watch a few hot spots….
as twilight settles over the prairie.
Within a few days new prairie grass shoots will turn the blackened fields into a verdant spring green.