Fort A.P. Hill and prescribed burn season.
Fort A.P. Hill Department of Emergency Services, Fire fighters support forestry personnel ensuring a prescribed burn is successful. (Photo Credit: Fort A.P. Hill Department of Emergency Services) VIEW ORIGINAL

Each year the Commonwealth of Virginia places a burn law into effect on February 15 and runs through April 30. Although we may still receive some winter weather or rainy day, during these times, high winds and low humidity make excellent conditions for wild land fires.

Wildfires pose a hazard to life, property and the training mission of Fort A.P. Hill.

Prescribed burns help reduce the intensity and severity of wildfires and the destruction associated with them. Controlled burns target areas with accumulated forest fuels, such as dead trees, twigs, leaves and dry grass, thus reducing the chances of a fire igniting.

Additionally, prescribed fire is a proven way to apply a natural process to manage the installation ecosystem and enhance wildlife habitat, the installation Forestry Branch.

These prescribed burns require long-term planning and coordination between a variety of the installation's directorates to determine what specific weather and site conditions are needed before the burn can be executed. If any of these conditions are not present, the burn will not take place, the burn boss will not allow the burn to happen. In addition, the staff ensures that specially trained forestry and fire department staffs are "on the ready" with the necessary fire extinguishing and control equipment to ensure the public's safety.

With careful planning and execution, prescribed burns are a great way to safeguard Fort A.P. Hill's range assets, protect the ecology and provide the best wildlife habitats possible.

Prescribed burning is a seasonal program dictated by ecology, climate, and other considerations. Moreover, this focused season is further limited by weather conditions, warrior training, and safety considerations. The fall burn season generally runs from Nov. 1 through mid-December and the spring season runs from Feb. 1 through the end of April.

However, the garrison sometimes performs prescribed burns during the fall and spring, even though the Commonwealth Department of Forestry has a, burning law which bans open-air burning prior to 4:00pm. This is allowable because all of our prescribed burn “Bosses” are Virginia Certified Prescribed Burn Managers and the intent of our prescribed burns is to meet land management objectives as stated in approved plans.

Army now follows the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG), training and qualification. The group provides national leadership to enable interoperable wildland fire operations among federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial partners. NWCG included representatives from the United States Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Association of State Foresters.

This means the Army is now able to operate using interagency prescribed Fire planning and implementation procedures which are used on a national level.

When the Forestry Branch performs a burn on the 76,000 acre regional training area, the Virginia Department of Forestry, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, County 911 dispatch, Sheriff, Fire & EMS, and many more offices and agencies are notified prior to the burn via call or email.

The public affairs office also receives burn information which is shared on garrison social media as well as via the Caroline Alert notification system (carolinealert.com).

An experienced burn boss is necessary to safely and effectively coordinate a burn. All of the burn bosses on Fort A.P. Hill are Virginia certified burn managers.

At the time of the burn, the burn boss is on scene with his team of foresters, Fort A.P. Hill EMS & Fire and garrison staff.

Garrison heavy machinery operators are placed on standby should they be needed to clean up a fire break or cut a new fire break should the situation warrant.

A prescribed burn on Fort A.P. Hill is not just another day at the office. Prescribed burns involve almost every post directorate. At Fort A.P. Hill, a prescribed burn is a garrison wide event that takes the entire team.