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Prescribed Burns

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Understanding More About Prescribed Burns

The City of Savage is known for its abundance of natural features and amenities. Roughly 30% of our land is parks, wetlands, and open spaces. To keep these natural areas beautiful and healthy, the City intentionally burns select native prairies, wetlands, storm water ponds and even park land on a rotational basis. Fire is a useful management tool which acts as nature’s “gardener” by trimming back trees and over mature shrubs that shade out sun-dependent plants like grasses and wildflowers. “Historically, fire has always been a natural part of our ecosystem,” reminds Natural Resources Superintendent Jon Allen. “Fires set by lighting and American Indians kept the prairies from becoming brushlands and forests.” Over time, native plant communities adapted to the periodic fire and not only survived, but thrived, after these fires. Today, prescribed burns are used to replicate natural fire events and are good for a variety of reasons including:

  • Removing built up thatch material and weed seeds
  • Invigorating new growth and seeding of desirable native plants, trees, and wildflowers
  • Helping control invasive weeds like thistle and wild parsnip and undesirable woody vegetation like buckthorn
  • Minimizing the spread of pest insects and disease
  • Improving habitat and food sources for birds, bees, butterflies, reptiles, wild game and many other species
  • Increasing the esthetic beauty of the prairie with more color and diversity

When to Burn

Spring and fall are the two primary seasons for burning. Spring burning is done before green-up, when the fire feeds off the dead plants without harming desirable vegetation. Fall fires are typically conducted about two weeks following the first killing frost. To ensure safety and to minimize smoke emission, seasoned, well- trained professionals meticulously plan and carefully time the burn for a specific range of temperature, wind direction, wind strength, humidity, barometric pressure, and ground moisture conditions. Because of these variables, the exact day and time may not be known until the day before or the same day of the burn. Staff will go door to door in an attempt to notify residents directly adjacent to the burn area on the day of the burn.

After the Burn

After a burn, the area will appear blackened and have a layer of soot. The time between the burn and regrowth is typically within 2 – 3 weeks during the spring and up to 6 months for fall burns. “Burned areas re-green very rapidly,” explains Water Resource Manager Jesse Carlson. Typically the season following a prescribed burn, the vegetation grows back thicker and healthier, and the flowers are more radiant, and seed production is more plentiful. “This is one of the many ecological benefits of controlled burning. It’s amazing to visit these areas periodically after a burn and witness the fast rate of new plant growth,” states Carlson.

Watch the video of the recent prescribed burn at Hidden Valley Park.