Fire, some thoughts


I watched the fire run up to our production plots and thought “this epitomizes my farm career: I can’t keep up.”  Plums keep sprouting in new locations before the old thickets are brought under control.  A controlled burn (really) last spring stimulated the brome rather than suppressing it.  And now burning a small pile of brush turned into a six acre grassland fire as it raced through the lush brome and up into the plots, torching some cedar trees between them.  I wanted to burn the plots but not exactly in this unplanned, ragged way.  When the fire chief pulled up to me his first words were, “this is not what I expected when I gave you the permit.”  It was a harbinger of things to come in our dry, windy, snow-free state.  Grass fires have made the news every week including some that closed state roadways.  ( )

Pile of ashes from burning brush

The white ash is what we intended to burn but the wind shifted out of the west and carried the blaze up to the plots.


Here are some things I know we learned (and discussed) after the fire got away from us:

  1. Listen to your spouse when he/she warns you that you are rushing through preparations and you really don’t have to burn the pile today.  To-do lists may be modified.
  2. Never burn anything without water and the means to apply it.
  3. Every fall mow out the area around the buildings and between the plots and the buildings.
  4. Mow around the brush piles or move them to an area that can be mowed/disked.
  5. Keep fire breaks maintained and expand the width of them.
  6. Cut down all of the cedars between the plots
  7. Wait for snow before burning brush piles – we may never get another permit.

And here is a list of what I wish to learn from the fire:

  1. How will it affect the cheat grass growing in the plots?
  2. How will it affect the seed I broadcast in the fall?
    1. Blue and hairy grama on the south side of the big field
    2. Little bluestem and big bluestem over seeded in the big field, and
    3. Switchgrass in the small field that was completely over run by the fire.
  3. How will the primrose rosettes that looked great last fall respond to fire?
  4. The brome?!

The benefits of our uncontrolled burn include removal of thatch that was building up in the big bluestem plots and now we have a burned patch for grazing this spring.  I’ll also be able to over-seed the south field with upland sedges.  We’ve opened up the ground for quite a bit of seeding.  Before then I’ll focus on harvesting rose hips and treating more plum thickets, no more brush fires, unless it snows.

aerial view of burn pattern

Here’s a rough approximation of the area that burned.

Burned about 6 acres.  Even the aerial looks dry!

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