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Prescription for healthy forests includes a good dose of fire

Second controlled burn scheduled for Thursday

POSTED: March 22, 2008 5:00 a.m.
ROBIN MICHENER NATHAN/The Times

The chief forest manager for Hall County, Doug Andrews, works on a controlled burn at Belton Bridge Road in Lula on Tuesday.

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Forestry officials supervised a 30-acre controlled fire on Ga. 365 Tuesday — one day after a forestry official asked the Hall County Commission to consider passing a resolution supporting and encouraging prescribed fires in the area.

The fire, called a "prescribed burn" is an effort to decrease the underbrush that could serve as fuel for a wildfire in the drought-stricken region, said Doug Andrews, chief forest manager for the Georgia Forestry Commission in Hall County.

"You’ve got to reduce the fuel hazards within each county no matter what the population is," Andrews told the county commission Monday.

Aside from getting rid of debris, burning can also help replenish the soil and help regenerate the area’s wildlife, Andrews said.

"After its burned over, and we get plenty of rain, it actually releases nitrogen (a fertilizer) back into the ground," Andrews said. "It fertilizes the trees that are left ... they’ll be green grasses and such that will come back up. Wildflowers that might be fire dependent, they’ll come back out, and just make the property more aesthetically pleasing."

Forests in Georgia have evolved with frequent fire, and need fire to stay healthy, according to a news release from the forestry commission.

Andrews and other forestry officials set a fire on the east end of the property that sits on the corner of Belton Bridge Road and Ga. 365, letting it burn against Tuesday’s westerly wind, in a safe-burning practice called "backfiring."

"If I set it with the wind ... then it’s going to run really hard across this piece of property and jump the firebreak," Andrews said.

The safe burning practice is one of the services that the forestry commission offers to Georgia landowners.

The commission will burn a larger piece of property north of Lula bridge Thursday on Ga. 52, and more are sure to come in the next month as the commission wraps up its burning season in April.

Tuesday’s burn was for private landowner Dave Register, who said he plans to sell the property to industrial and commercial developers. Burning season lasts from November through April, when the humidity is lower than summer months.

The Hall County Commission will vote on the resolution encouraging prescribed burning at its Thursday meeting.



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