Advocate editorial board opinion: Be safe; follow guidelines for prescribed burns

By the Advocate Editorial Board
Feb. 16, 2011 at 5:04 p.m.
Updated Feb. 15, 2011 at 8:16 p.m.

Conditions right now are perfect for prescribed burns, according to Victoria County Fire Marshal Ron Pray. But a prescribed burn is something one must be careful to plan so it does not get out of hand.

The weather offers cool air, and moisture accumulates in early morning hours. So we think if you decide to do a prescribed burn, you should spend time preparing for it so that you can maintain control of the fire.

Pray said he and the Coastal Bend Prescribed Burn Association, a nonprofit that serves the immediate 12 counties in the area, are prepared to help ranchers and farmers conduct their burns, which are very beneficial to the soil.

Pray said burns get rid of weeds, dead and dry grass and reduces brush. The result is natural fertilization of the soil that produces green grass, and that in turn supports wildlife and habitat.

The idea is not new. Mother Nature did it with lightning, Native Americans practiced the method and in more recent times, the burn is strategically controlled, becoming what we call a "prescribed burn."

"A controlled burn (as opposed to a prescribed burn) could be a pile of brush in your backyard," Pray said.

But a prescribed burn takes much more planning, including a burn plan with fire breaks, back burns to create lines to end the primary burn, notification of the burn to neighbors, fire breaks, fuel assessment on land, availability of water, plenty of people to manage the burn, tools and equipment, proper weather conditions, determination of smoke direction and roadway safety and more considerations.

"It's not just something you go out in your backyard and light a fire," Pray said.

But Pray said most have planned well for their burns.

"We've had more than 30 prescribed burns in the last month that did not get out of hand," Pray said.

But there is not a perfect record in our area. Some accidental burns turned into uncontrolled burns; arson caused one; and not planning enough caused a couple of more out-of-control burns.

We think that's why it's important to work with Pray or the Coastal Bend Prescribed Burn Association.

"You can call my office at 361-579-9103 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. or leave a message on our answering machine. We will call you the next day," Pray said.

Pray said he will visit anyone's land who wants to conduct a prescribed burn and assess what is needed to do it safely.

We urge you to be safe while doing your prescribed burns. And make sure you've strategically planned for it.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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