Light it up
First and foremost, this is the funnest thing you can do, as a prairie manager. Holy smokes is it fun…
The energy that occurs when you drop flame onto a dormant prairie, with a bunch of these 1hr fuels (quickest fuel to ignite), it’s insane. Literally, I think it’s insane.
BUT! If you have the right weather conditions and have the right fire prevention equipment, you’re good to go. A quick note off the bat. If a fire does ever get away (as in the pictures show below with the fire trucks on scene), the best way to get the fire out, is get ahead of the fire, drop flame in front of it, and have the fire burn itself out. Having said that, it can be pretty difficult to accomplish.
The story about the fire getting away, I was with the head fire on the south side, and we were lighting too far ahead of our back burner on the north end. She saw the head flame coming and called code red, and we all hopped in the ATV on our end, got to the truck, and floored it to get in front of it. But by then, it was too late. The fire trucks came, and we burned about 80 more acres than planned. It was wild. And so much fun…
As far as fire goes, it’s necessary for many reasons.
The nutrients from the left over ash adds nutrients back into the soil for the plants to soak in
With the tall vegetation removed, sunlight warms the blackened soil and helps germinate new seedlings and stimulate dormant ones.
It also eliminates invasive plants that are not used to fire. Remember, native prairies for centuries would light on fire from lightning strikes, or from native Americans trying to herd out buffalo.
There’s something so satisfying about completing a burn. Check in with your local DNR during fall and spring, and see if you can drop in on one of their burns. They’re certainly dangerous, so please leave it to the professionals!