Where there’s wildfire, there’s Fort Johnson’s Environmental Forestry Team

By Porsha AuzenneAugust 15, 2023

Where there’s wildfire, there’s Fort Johnson’s Environmental Forestry Team
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The Fort Johnson Directorate of Public Works Environmental Forestry Team surveying the area before boarding a helicopter to get an ariel view of the prescribed burn. (Photo Credit: Porsha Auzenne) VIEW ORIGINAL
Where there’s wildfire, there’s Fort Johnson’s Environmental Forestry Team
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – An ariel view of a prescribed burn at Fort Johnson taken by the Directorate of Public Works Environmental Forestry Team. (Photo Credit: Porsha Auzenne) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT JOHNSON, La. — Smokey the Bear once said, “A single ember that escapes can ignite a wildfire.” What might start as a simple cigarette butt tossed carelessly on the ground or a lightening strike against a tree can quickly turn into a dangerous wildfire that destroys our forests, wildlife and community. If such a catastrophe were to occur, a group of dedicated individuals trained in suppressing wildfires is always ready to answer nature’s call — The Fort Johnson Directorate of Public Works Environmental Forestry Team.

With approximately 250,000 acres of wildland that the team is responsible for in wildfire firefighting, a routine process is followed daily to ensure the safety of Fort Johnson’s people. At the start of the work day, no matter what tasks are planned, the Forestry Team checks in with Range Control to verify they have access to the training areas they’ll be working. Routine tasks performed throughout the year, including forest inventory, timber marking and sale preparation, firebreak maintenance, prescribed burning activities and all other forest management activities require permission. After securing access to the desired areas, each team member proceeds to their assigned task for the day.

The team shared key points on how they keep the community safe from wildfires. “A knowledgeable and experienced staff is key,” said Bruce Martin, DPW Forestry Branch chief. “Maintaining our interior and exterior firebreak system significantly limits the spread of wildfires. Having an adequate and well-maintained fleet of vehicles and equipment to support our wildland firefighting management activities is essential in reducing response times to wildfires day or night. This includes specially equipped dozers, 300-gallon pumper trucks, all-terrain vehicles/utility terrain vehicles and pickup trucks used as scout vehicles.”

DPW’s prescribed burning program is also an essential part in wildfire safety and serves a multitude of purposes that benefit the ecosystem. This program reduces fuel loads in the forest, as higher fuel loads mean more intense wildfires.

Regular controlled burning prevents wildfires from getting out of control and becoming more dangerous and harder to contain. Rescheduled prescribed burning of land used for training done regularly aides in reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfires, which ensures a measure of safety for Soldiers, training resources and the ecosystem. Regular burning also supports training needs by maintaining visibility on training lands while allowing some cover and concealment. Smoke management practices are used to minimize impact to training activities and to prevent negatively impacting surrounding communities.

Martin stated how much working in the forestry field, especially for the Forestry Team, means to him. “Always having a team ready to respond 24/7 is vital to keeping our soldiers and their families safe on the installation. We get to come to work each day knowing every part of forest and wildland fire management we do is to support Fort Johnson.” Martin further expressed how he and his team are proud to play a part in providing a quality training missionscape that will help to keep our Army fighting and winning our nation’s wars.”