Prescribed burning workshop teaches safe methods

Bruce Schultz  |  5/11/2018 8:11:42 PM

(05/11/18) WOODWORTH, La. — Twenty-three students attended an LSU AgCenter prescribed burn workshop May 8 to 10 to learn the proper use of fire to improve forests.

Prescribed burning is used to reduce dead vegetation, pine straw and other fuel that could allow a wildfire to get out of control, said Niels de Hoop, LSU AgCenter professor of environmental safety, who led the workshop.

Burning helps timber stands because other vegetation that competes for nutrients is reduced and wildlife habitat is improved, de Hoop said.

Burning forests is a practice that dates to prehistoric times, he said. A recent study determined that 20 to 25 percent of Louisiana forests burned annually, started either by lightning or by native populations.

Early humans burned forests to improve growing conditions for wild food sources. “They cleared land using fire and to drive game for hunting,” de Hoop said.

Pine trees have thick bark that provides protective insulation from heat, he said, but hardwood trees are not as resilient to heat.

Burning is either done between March and June or from November until March, he said. Early settlers used burning so that grass would be available for grazing in spring.

Les LeBleu, of Houston, was among the workshop students. He plans to hire a company to conduct a controlled burn on 47 acres of longleaf pine he owns in Louisiana. “When it is burned, I’ll have a better understanding,” he said.

LeBleu and the rest of the class participated in burning about an acre of land at the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Outdoor Education Center near Woodworth.

Jordan Franks, an instructor at the Central Louisiana Technical Community College in Winnfield, was attending with one of her students. Upon successful completion of the course, the students are certified in controlled burn management.

“We’re trying to get them as many professional certifications as they can while they’re in school,” she said.

The certification provides liability protection if a burn plan is followed. Several factors have to be considered, including humidity, wind strength and direction during a prescribed burn to control the fire and smoke, de Hoop said.

Josh Adams, a Louisiana Tech forestry professor who also attended the workshop, said he has worked with AgCenter forestry researcher Michael Blazer to burn wooded areas at the AgCenter Hill Farm Research Station near Homer to improve forage for cattle.

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Student Kyle Clark starts a fire during a prescribed burn workshop held by the LSU AgCenter at the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Outdoor Education Center near Woodworth. Photo by Bruce Schultz/LSU AgCenter

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Niels de Hoop, LSU AgCenter professor of environmental safety, at left, uses an instrument to gauge wind speed, wind direction and relative humidity to be considered before conducting a prescribed burn. He conducted the workshop May 8-10 at the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Outdoor Education Center near Woodworth for foresters, landowners and representatives from state agencies. Photo by Bruce Schultz/LSU AgCenter

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