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Thread: Habitat Enhancement for Fall?

  1. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
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    Cunningham, Kansas
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    2,304

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    Summer burns are much safer and less volatile than spring burns. So many people conduct burns timed on when it is convenient or when they have help. To conduct any burn properly, you must be basing your timing based on the best weather conditions! So many base their burn-not burn decision based on wind. Our dispatchers use that as their only cancelling factor. I can burn with a 30 mile per hour wind more safely than I can with low humidity. If you look at the J-curve graph that represents spot-over potential, it is almost a vertical line when the humidity gets below 35%. From your neighbors perspective, your timing will also need to adhere to the legal ceiling height. Getting smoke off of the ground to where it can disperse keeps you from getting cross ways with your neighbors. Kansas' law says 1800 feet is the minimum. More is better. The NOAA weather report can help with all of these. If you go below the local 7 day forecast, there is a link to the tabular forecast. This shows what the wind, humidity, and temperatures will be hour-by-hour. You can also add ceiling height, rangeland fire index, and Haines index to help you make that all-important burn/not burn decision. As for keeping your fire where you want it, pre-fire preparation is all important. I really like disked fire breaks. Some of my peers work on federal ground and those "owners" do not want sod broken. These managers are using a mowed fire break that they use a rotary rake on (from John Deere) that spins on top of the ground and removes almost all of the vegetation without major soil disturbance. Some use natural fire breaks, and others only mow. If you are doing spring burns, mowing in the fall for that spring burn will often encourage cool-season grass to germinate in that mowed strip, which inhibits lighting and gives you more time and safety when using only mowed fire breaks. Any fire break needs to be 10X wider than the fuel you are burning is tall. As for equipment, a lot depends on these afore-mentioned preparations. Leaf blowers can work well but, like any tool, have their limitations. Most of my fires I require a crew of 4. I also require a number of sprayers and other tools. Much depends on conditions, crew experience, and a whole file of other considerations. OSU's website has a very good training video class that you can take that puts all of these puzzle pieces in context. All this sounds like a whole bunch of variables, and they are. However, any intelligent individual can learn to conduct prescribed burns with great safety. That being said, fire can be unpredictable and even the best will lose control if he/she burns for a lifetime. I have had to call the fire department for 3 burns in 35 years of fire. One was for a fire that rekindled a week after I had controlled the perimeter, one from a spot-over, and one for a fire the burned across the fire break behind the backfire due to low humidity and an unexperienced crew member. As for my equipment, I like Honda motors with a Hypro D40 diaphragm pump putting out over 500 psi with 50-100 feet of hose on a 60 gallon tank on my John Deere Gator. As back up, I have a skid on the 1 ton that is 200 gallons with a 1 inch line that can put out 70 gpm to put down a running headfire escape. I also have flappers, fire rakes, shovels, Pulaski, nomex, helmets, radios, etc. My best advice is to get several neighbors together to combine labor, equipment, and experience and help one another. Many good videos on youtube. You might also contact someone you know that burns and help them on several of their fires to get hands-on experience before attempting your first burn.
    Trust the dog!

    Troy Smith

  2. #12
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Location
    South-Central Kansas
    Posts
    37

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    PD,

    I have talked to the County Emergency Dispatcher many times, asking questions prior to my burns, and never once heard that there is a legal ceiling height to follow under state laws. I hate making mistakes out of ignorance - but in many cases you don't know what you don't know.

    I always use the Fire Weather Information page (from the National Weather Service) that you directed me to in the past. However, I don't yet have enough fire experience on my burns to separate the fire characteristics due to vegetation compared to atmospheric conditions.

    Do you have time to answer a few more questions on the forum?

    1.) For legal ceiling height, do you click the Mixing Height button on the NWS site?

    2.) Do you utilize any of the calculated indices to help in your burn day decisions? Specifically, the Haines Index or the Grassland Fire Danger Index?

    3.) Until I get much more experience, I always want to err on the side of my fire being "too safe". If it goes out and we have to try again at a later date, that is much better than the alternative. What are the lowest safety factors you will accept on your burns considering your exquisite fire breaks and experienced crews? (I assume you consider relative humidity your most important safety factor.)

    4.) If you will still initiate a burn at XX% relative humidity, how much would you bump that number up for rookies to be in a safe zone?

    Thank, Rod.

  3. #13
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Location
    South-Central Kansas
    Posts
    37

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    Brittman,

    I used to start my fires with a propane weed-burner, prior to shelling out for a drip torch. However, having one guy lugging around a heavy propane tank, essentially takes one man off of your fire suppression crew.

    In response to your question about getting the fire going, I don't think you could even sustain a fire in my prairie grass under normal "safe" atmospheric conditions while the grass is still green and there is still moisture in the topsoil. The relative humidity is so high below the top of the grass "canopy" that lighting one clump of grass will not be sufficient to ignite the adjacent clump. If you experiment, and watch closely, you can observe the heat of the burning clump start to drive the moisture out of the adjacent clump. Under conditions with the grass being too green and the relative humidity being too high, you can see that the fuel from the first burning clump is exhausted while the adjacent clump is still steaming.

    However, the opposite case is also true when it comes to starting your burn. It is like a toggle switch, once you cross the threshold that a burning clump of grass can ignite neighboring clumps, then any fire becomes inherently dangerous.

    I am therefore a little worried about your comment to use leaf blowers to slow it down. I have used my leaf blower to turn back the edge of a backfire that was slowly spreading against the wind. I have never seen a head fire that started running out of the prescribed burn area that could have been turned (or even slowed significantly) with a blower.

    My experience is limited, so your mileage may vary. However, I am still nervous everytime watching my burns interact with the fire breaks. If you don't have the manpower and equipment to get down to essentially barren ground like Prairie Drifter does, then every fire should be treated as a nasty b*tch!

  4. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Cunningham, Kansas
    Posts
    2,304

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    Here is my local forecast page: https://forecast.weather.gov/MapClic...4#.XWwv5zxYbL9
    Under the "Additional Forecasts and Information" heading you will see the "Tabular Forecast" link in the center column. Click that you will get the hourly forecast for Cunningham. Under the "Fire Weather" heading you will see boxes by Mixing Height and Grassland Fire Index. If you check those two boxes and hit submit, you will get hourly forecasts for both in addition to those already listed. The Haines Index has more to do with the ability of large wildfires to develop. That means for most folks the grassland fire index is more useful. For the average person burning his own land, I would want a day where the humidity never falls below 35%, better yet, 40%. You want the wind legal as well, so under 15 mph throughout the time you might burn. I also look at the weather at least 2 days down range as I don't want extremely low humidity accompanying high winds for a couple of days especially if my fire has much brush or timber in it. Those 100-1000 hour fuels are what will generate after you thought the fire was cold and throw embers across your fire lines days after you called the fire out. On my fire breaks, I usually mow 25-30 feet then disk the exterior 16-20 feet. Those extra feet width mowed lowers my 10X distance and lessens the chance of spot overs. It also keeps the fire cooler when you are close to it.
    Trust the dog!

    Troy Smith

  5. #15
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Cunningham, Kansas
    Posts
    2,304

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    There is a difference between a big dew on the grass and the atmospheric humidity. Yes, if there is a heavy dew, fires can be hard to start. The difference between a drip torch and a propane burner is that the diesel in the 2/3 diesel-1/3 gasoline mix in the drip torch is that the drip torch fuel burns slower and, therefore, tend to better ignite the grass. One key to a safer burn is a contiguous fire line. A broken line can cause you problems as the various segments interact. If there is any instability in the atmosphere, it can cause fire whirls that can throw those embers a long distance.
    Trust the dog!

    Troy Smith

  6. #16

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    I have conducted several late winter early spring burns , all of our burns are done with fire brakes that have been mowed and raked and back fire end to the wind . Usually use diaphragm pump sprayers and go slow and be cautious.

    Burn when there is little wind, asked a freind to keep and Eye on our fire break to make sure fire didnít trickle across it leaf blower was very handy suppressing and putting out fire when it would want to trickle back across fire break .

    I assume conditions for a late summer burn need to be pretty dry low wind good fire break and a drip torch to move the fire ?

    In the late winter early spring a long handled rake is all I have ever needed to keep a fire progressing .
    Last edited by KSBrittman; 09-01-2019 at 06:56 PM.

  7. #17
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Location
    South-Central Kansas
    Posts
    37

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    Thanks for the reply Brittman. I already worry enough about my own fires, that I certainly don't need to worry about other people's fires!

    Listen to Prairie Drifter, he is certainly our resident expert.

    The other thing I did when starting fires under new conditions (ground cover, season, etc.), was to do tiny little test burns just to see how the fire was going to progress on a very small scale. The whole fire crew would watch and discuss, so we knew what to expect on the big fire.

    Good luck on your land management!

  8. #18
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Location
    South-Central Kansas
    Posts
    37

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    PD, thanks for the firm numbers. That is the same website that I was using. I just wanted to know which data forecasts you found most valuable.

    When I am planning a burn with timber or brush piles on the ground, I sure do feel better when there is rain in the forecast for shortly after the burn.

    I have read that brush piles are one more feature that is important for quail management. Do you leave any large brush piles out on Byron Walker? If so, what is your preferred size and density?

    Thanks, Rod.

  9. #19
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Cunningham, Kansas
    Posts
    2,304

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    If you can get on the OSU website and get copies of videos: VT1139 and VT112, they are good. Also, the training is a bit buried. I'll try to attach the instructions.
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    Trust the dog!

    Troy Smith

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