Officials planning controlled burns

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Spring burning in the White Mountain National Forest will begin as soon as ground and weather conditions become right for safe, effective controlled burning.

The Forest Service plans to burn areas in New Hampshire and in Albany, Gilead, and Batchelders Grant in Maine.

About 112 acres of the almost 800,000-acre national forest will be burned, with individual sites ranging from 3-30 acres in size.

Don Muise, fire management officer with the national forest, is keeping an eye on the weather and moisture levels in sites around the forest.

“We have a site-specific burn plan for each area that describes the exact conditions we need before we’ll ignite a fire. We wait for the right wind, weather, and moisture levels that will allow us to burn safely while meeting specific resource objectives,” he said in a statement. “The burn plans also spell out all the details for the kinds of equipment and the number of trained firefighters needed at the site, and coordination requirements with state forest rangers and local fire departments.”

Most of the sites are wildlife openings and will be broadcast burned across the acreage, while some areas have scattered piles of brush that will be burned individually. Two of the areas, one in Albany and one in Conway, N.H., are forested stands that will be “underburned.” That’s where low-intensity fire clears some of the competing vegetation from the forest floor to allow oak and pine seedlings to take hold.

Fire is part of the ecological process that promotes oak and pine, and is useful in perpetuating these species in the national forest.

Wildlife openings add to the diversity and complexity of habitat in the national forest. “This open habitat is essential for feeding, nesting and cover for many wildlife species,” says Lesley Rowse, a U.S. Forest Service wildlife biologist based in Gorham.

Burning is also used in some areas to reduce the amount of accumulated forest fuels such as dead leaves, brush and wood, reducing the potential for a wildfire. The burns are ignited and controlled by wildland firefighters.

“Many of these sites have been burned before and so our fire crew is experienced and understands how fire behaves in this terrain,” says Muise.

Firefighters receive annual training and must pass a physical fitness test prior to joining the crew. Spring burning in the White Mountain National Forest helps them stay prepared for assignments here and elsewhere if needed for wildfire suppression.

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