Controlled Fires Clean Up Training Areas

27 Jan 2004 | Lance Cpl. Christopher J. Ohmen

The Camp Lejeune Forestry Department is currently conducting annual burns to control underbrush in training areas.

According to Danny Becker, forest protection program manager, Environmental Conservation Branch, Environmental Management Division, “Most of the prescribed burns are performed from November to February because of the lower temperatures and predictable weather conditions.”

Burning objectives include reducing wild fire fuel on the ground and restoration of wildlife habitats, Becker said.

To burn all the training areas once takes about five years.  In that time a large amount of leaves and brush build up, he explained.  The burns get rid of this fuel, which reduces the possibility of wild fires.

Burning also helps the ecosystem by letting grass and herbs reestablish themselves in those areas deer, turkey and other animals forage for food, said Danny Marshburn, timber program manager, Environmental Conservation Branch, Environmental Management Division.

No burning is conducted from March to May due to low surface water and it being the start of the fire season.  During this time surface water, such as streams and marshes, start drying up providing less of a natural fire barrier, Marshburn said.  Also, humidity drops and winds pickup, causing an increase in wild fire probability.

June and July is the growing season for most of the plants in the training areas.  Any burns conducted at this time are to get rid of the weeds and dead brush on the ground, making it easier for the indigenous species to grow, Becker said.  This gives a boost to the food supply for the local wildlife letting more grass grow for the winter months.

“Last year 21,000 acres were burned in this fashion, 25,000 acres are slated for this year,” Becker said.

No burns are done from August to October because the combination of high temperatures and dry conditions makes the possibility of wild fires more likely.  Also, if fires were started during these months there could be damage to vital upper branches of trees, he continued.

The fact that Marines and sailors are always using the training areas on base is another reason for the prescribed burning.  The underbrush in the training areas makes training harder to complete and can make it unsafe.  The prescribed burning eliminates this problem as well.  It may leave ashes covering the training area, but a few rains can clean that up, Becker said. 

If you see large plumes of smoke rising off an area of Camp Lejeune in the next month, it is most likely the Forestry Department reducing the possibility of wild fires breaking out and making training areas safer for Marines and sailors, he said.