Fire at Patoka River NWR
*The prescribed fires at Patoka River NWR took place last week
I (Audrey) was very fortunate to travel to Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge for two days last week to participate in prescribed burning. I had an absolute blast! I ignited a fire using a drip torch; I put out fires that were going the wrong way with a hose; I drove a UTV around the fire to make sure that it was not going where we didn't want it to go; I inhaled a decent amount of smoke; I saw three rabbits and a deer run away from the flames; I saw a short eared owl fly above the burned area looking for food; I protected signs and electric poles from burning; I got really hot and really cold depending on where I was standing (cold weather, very hot flames!), and I was part of a team that successfully burned 5 units at Patoka River NWR. I may or may not have the fire bug... I had a lot of fun but of course was very careful with what I was doing. Fire is not a toy to play with - it can get very very hot very quickly even when you are standing 20 feet away from the flames; if you are not careful you could get stuck in the fire and you have to make sure that you are not on fire. It's a lot of fun but it is a job that requires a lot of attention. You cannot be goofing around because someone might get hurt or the fire might get out of control. Spot fires (when a fire ignites outside of the main fire area) can occur (which did in our case but we put it out) and we have to take those out quickly or the fire may spread.
I drew a quick summary diagram of how we burned the unit and what was going on.
backing fire - a fire burning against the wind
flanking fire - a fire that is not burning against or with the wind
head fire - a fire burning with the wind
blackline - an area pre burned before burning the entire unit. Basically an area that prevents the head fire from spreading to a different area.
The backing fire and the flanking fires are ignited first. The head fire is ignited last. Think of it as a container with three sides and a wave. The backing and flanking fires are the walls that keep the wave (head fire) from exiting the box.
This is a great pdf with the definitions of the terms below: https://www.nwcg.gov/sites/default/files/data-standards/glossary/pms205.pdf
The fire and the blackline
A brief diagram of the fire plan
Photos by Audrey M. Basson