MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune works hard to keep the natural forestry around it healthy, even if the methods used may seem skeptical to the untrained eye.
One such way that the base protects the forestry, is through controlled burns like the controlled burn that occurred between Lyman Road and McHugh Boulevard Dec. 21 which removed nearly 100 acres of underbrush.
"Controlled burns are burns in designated areas that burn the underbrush to help open up the area and allow the long-leafed pine to flourish, by reducing the competition" said Barrett Baker, a forestry technician with the Forestry Protection Division aboard the base. "It helps the wildlife and improves military training as well."
When the underbrush is cleared, it removes all the dead pine and other undergrowth and allows new growth to come in, which the animals of the base can feed on.
Controlled burns also help with training by reducing fire hazards that come with live firing.
Before the Forestry Protection Division can begin a controlled burn certain requirements and cooperation of several different organizations aboard the base must be met.
"We have to contact the State Forestry Service to inform them that we will be doing a controlled burn," said Larry Church, a chief forestry Technician with the Forestry Protection Division. "We then schedule through range control and get into a slot that isn't taken up by training. From there we notify Blackburn and contact the base to inform them of a controlled burn."
To reduce the chance of a controlled burn getting out of control, a tractor equipped with a plow drives ahead of the controlled burn and clears a path, removing all the growth to ensure the fire does not spread past it's designated zones. Forestry personnel also only burn small sections at a time and use a rubber mat on the end of a pole to smother any small fires that may be getting close to coming out of control.
Fires are also usually scheduled from December until March or June if the weather permits.
Additionally, Church and his team have a varying window of time to conduct the controlled burns. Weather is tracked to ensure no rain falls at the same time or before the controlled burn. To help with traffic safety, the personnel at Forestry Protection work diligently to time the controlled burns with winds that blow away from the roads.
With fire, safety is always first and the firefighters take every controlled burn seriously. Each one is equipped with NoMex pants and shirts which are made out of fire resistant material. Strapped to each of their chests is a harness with a fully functional walkie-talkie and a fire cheslter which is made out of a light-weight material and helps protect from the heat and flames.
"Along with helping promote new growth and providing food to the animals, the controlled fires help protect us from unintentional fires," said Church. "If a fire starts to spread, once it reaches an area that has gone through a controlled burn it has nowhere to go and will help us out in putting it out."