Oak Hill, WV (WOAY-TV): As the wildfire season comes to its unofficial close for the spring season, the numbers prove it was slightly more active than last year. One way officials help to combat the spread of wildfires is through prescribed burns.
Chief Meteorologist Chad Merrill and Braden Petry have more:
In West Virginia, 777 fires burned almost 11,000 acres so far this year. When the numbers are crunched in our region, there were 39 acres burned this spring compared to NONE last spring.
Our StormWatch weather team got an exclusive behind-the scenes look at the vehicles the fire management team uses to combat brush fires thanks to Michelle Faherty, on the Fire Management Team for the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve.
The Fire Management team isn’t just actively responding to fires at New River Gorge National Park. There’s an entire process outlined on how to mitigate the spread of wildfires while also preserving nature and wildlife. One of the goals is to reduce the number of maple trees and increase oak tree production. Oak trees provide food for many of our animals.
The team is taking proactive steps even before the height of the brush fire season to minimize leaf litter on the forest floor while also helping to preserve nature and wildlife here in southern West Virginia.
The prescribed burn units in our region to carry out these measures include Backus Mountain and Grandview, to name two. Our journey with Michelle took us to the Backus Mountain burn unit.
The weather plays a huge factor in being able to plan and carry out a prescribed burn. As a matter of fact, the Fire Management team can only carry out a prescribed burn if a laundry list of weather thresholds are met.
A prescribed burn also requires by law sufficient staffing to be present on-site to carry out the plan
Besides early spring before the green-up period commences, trained professionals carry out prescribed burns just ahead of the fall brush fire season, which in West Virginia is October 1 to the end of December.