Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.--Smoke from raging fires have recently been billowing over parts of Joint Base Lewis-McChord during prescribed burns. At the actual fire the heat and noise become tremendous and deafening to the ear as the fire sweeps through acres of training land. The whirlwind of fire turns the area into a virtual hell as whipping flames demolish everything leaving scorched earth.But there is nothing to fear, this fire was set by a host of agencies including The Center for Natural Lands Management, The Nature Conservancy, JBLM Fire and Emergency Services and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in an effort to help the environment and benefit the residents on JBLM.Fire management personnel set prescribed burns in training areas across JBLM to prevent wildfires, enhance habitat for native species, control invasive plant species and improve training areas for soldiers. The prescribed burn at training area 15, outside the East gate, took place Aug. 18 burning approximately 100 acres.The use of fire management benefits the environment in a multitude of ways like controlling rampantly expanding noxious weeds."The main purpose of the prescribed fire is to remove Scotch Broom which is an invasive plant," said Glenn Rex, Captain of station 103, JBLM Fire and Emergency Services."Scotch Broom is choking out all the native species that are key to all the other plants' and animals' survival," said Bob Wilken, burn boss with The Nature Conservancy, "Fire is nature's way of cleaning house.""We use fire to enhance the pine and oak forest on post and build habitat for the endangered species, said Rex.The land doesn't stay scorched and blackened for very long as it goes through a rebirth process."If we were to get a rain we will have green sprouts coming out in a week," said Wilken."For the health of the land, fire is the single best thing you can do to manage it right now, cost effective wise," said Casey Dennehy, invasive species project manager for The Center for Natural Lands Management.Another benefit of the prescribed burn is improved access to training areas."Fire is good for the training areas; this broom turns the area into untrainable land. I know that as soon as we burn an area the Soldiers love it," said Dennehy.Once the fire sweeps through an area it clears out all the weeds and underbrush leaving land that is easier to navigate."Fire breaks up the heavy fuel load," said Wilken, "each year that fire doesn't go through an area it builds up thicker and thicker."The frequent burning of training areas on JBLM is one way to control the dangers of wildfires. If these management organizations don't burn the fuel sources on a regular basis then the fuel is allowed to build up.
"When it does catch there is a lot more intensity in the fire, a lot more damaging and the fire could become catastrophic," added Wilken"By removing the Scotch Broom we are lowering the fire potential in an area," said DennehyOver the course of a year, land management agencies burn around 2,500 acres of land on JBLM. In many ways prescribed burning of lands is a benefit to the land and the environment by opening up training areas and allowing a cleansing rebirth of the land after fire.