ELKINS, W.Va. — When the weather finally cooperates officials with the U.S. Forest Service plan to set fire to 5,000 acres of the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. The prescribed fires will be carefully planned to effectively improve the forest for wildlife and reduce the chances for an enormous fire in the future.

“Fire managers work with our wildlife biologists, hydrologists, and all of the different resources areas to figure out the very best conditions in terms of forest moisture in the leaves and sticks on the ground and the weather,” said Monongahela National Forest Public Information Specialist Julie Fosbender. “We want to make sure when we conduct a prescribed fire, we get the results we want that will benefit wildlife habitat.”

The idea of a controlled burn is to consume ground materials like leaves, fallen limbs, dead and decaying trees and small plants. Controlled fires tend to burn cooler than a wildfire and do no damage to large standing timber. According to Fosbender allowing the ground litter and fuel to accumulate only insure when there is a fire it will burn hot and fast and caused widespread forest destruction.

“Our goal is to burn the leaf litter, the sticks, and small vegetation,” she explained. “If you have a thick fern layer you can get rid of that and allow those oak seedlings to grow. You try to get rid of that lower layer of the forest.”

There are plans for six separate prescribed burns, mostly on the eastern slopes. The locations will stretch from the area of Circleville south to White Sulphur Springs. Dates and times for the burns remain tentative and are very weather dependent. You can follow the plans at the U.S. Forest Service Incident Command Website.

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