SPRINGFIELD - For the next several weeks, crews from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources will be conducting prescribed burns statewide. Spring burn season typically starts as soon as the weather is suitable and continues through mid-April. Most Illinois habitats are adapted to periodic fires, and a prescribed fire is one of the most cost-effective tools available to stimulate growth of native vegetation and control invasive plant species.
“Our professional staff does a great job conducting burns that are safe and effective,” said IDNR director Marc Miller. “We are fortunate to have a great group of men and women at IDNR who are trained to manage the prescribed burns needed to maintain our woodlands and prairies.”
If you are sick, a physician might prescribe medication to fight an illness. That prescription is a “plan” to address whatever is making you sick. In the same way, land managers conduct prescribed burns to maintain Illinois prairies and woodlands in a healthy condition.
Planning for spring burns began months ago as site managers prepared burn plans, applied for the appropriate permits from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and established firebreaks in units to be burned. As part of the plan – or prescription – fires must be conducted only when temperature, humidity and wind speed conditions are appropriate. This ensures the fire burns hot enough to be effective, but not so much that it is difficult to control. Burn managers, those tasked to lead burn crews, are trained to federal standards and certified according to state law.
“A lot of time is spent in pre-planning,” said Robert Szafoni, IDNR Natural Areas Stewardship Project Manager. “There is a long lead time before we ever show up on the ground to conduct the burn.”
Fire was used as a management tool long before European settlers arrived in Illinois. Native Americans burned the prairies to clear land for farming, to stimulate new growth to attract game and to facilitate travel and hunting.