Forest Service crews are fighting fire with fire in East Texas

HOUSTON Co., TX (KTRE) – U. S. Forest Service crews are cleaning up the Davy Crockett National Forest in what might seem a very unusual way – they are setting fire to it.

Crews are using controlled burning to target 100 acres of trees near FM 2781 in Houston County.  The method allows them to clean up the forest now in order to help avoid catastrophic events later.

Bobi Stiles, Fire Management Officer, says everyday is a burn day during this time of year.  "We don't burn the over story. We only burn the under story. And, that's where the fuel's at. If you have a wildfire, those are the fuels that are primarily going to burn. So, we reduce what we call the one and ten and hundred hour fuels. Prescribed fire removes those," said Stiles.

They say igniting prescribed burns are the best way to ward off uncontrolled wildfires like the ones that ravaged east Texas last summer.

Experts say dead trees lying on the forest floor provide the perfect fuel for sparking and spreading wildfires.

Officials point to the prescribed burning that helped with the eventual end to the Bearing wildfire last year as an example of how well the method works.  The burn lines from controlled burning two years prior to the wildfire ultimately contained the 22,000 acre blaze. "It's when it hits areas that have been previously burned that it really helps the most, so fuel loads are down," said Gerald Lawrence, District Ranger.

"You have to have three things to have a fire: fuel, oxygen, and heat. If you take away the fuel, you take away one of the legs of the triangle. And, you're not going to have a fire," said Stiles.  So, by removing elements that feed flames, officials hope to fend off future threats to the Pineywoods.

Crews plan to continue burning in the forest daily for the next few months.  They caution motorists to look out for smoke, look for posted warning signs, and drive cautiously when approaching a burn area.

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