Controlled Burn Season Underway - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Controlled Burn Season Underway

Posted: Apr 16, 2018 6:25 PM Updated:

FEDERALSBURG, Md. - Crackling fire, enveloping a field right outside of Federalsburg, was by no means an accident.

It was done, instead, by men dressed in bright yellow with what they call a drip torch in hand. These men are setting fire to a 20 acre plot as part of a controlled burn.

Wildlife biologist, Chris Keiser, says there's a purpose for them.

He says the black, charred remains of dead plants help the soil underneath turn the land back into green. It also helps wildlife species, stopping forests from overtaking their grassland habitat.

"If we didn't burn it and we let it go to forest, those species would essentially lose out," Keiser said.

Speeding off on his ATV, Keiser explains how it's done.

Communicating through walkie-talkies, some men start by creating a border, letting the fire move in. Others tag team, circling around the area, spraying water and making sure nothing gets out.

It's a serious job that's still plenty of fun.

"It's like every kids dream," Keiser said.

But Keiser says planning for a controlled burn can get hazy at times. The men have to account for weather, the time of day, and wind speed and direction.

They also have to think about what's on the ground. If the land is too moist, it won't burn. If it's too dry, it could make the fire hard to manage. They're all things that could change last minute and sometimes extinguish plans altogether.

"Yeah. It's definitely something you got to pay attention to," Keiser said.

It's special attention needed with Spring season underway. Keiser says this time of year is the best time to burn.

It all factors into safety. The men constantly battle heat, smoke, and dehydration.

"We always have waters and stuff like that," Keiser said.

With thick smoke nearly blocking out the sun, the team finally wraps up and lets things die down, blowing the fire out before moving on to the next.

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