Q & A: What’s that smoke near Capitol State Forest? (UPDATE)

DNR and Nature Conservancy fire crews supervise a controlled burn to help restore prairie habitat at Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve near Olympia. Photo: DNR

DNR and Nature Conservancy fire crews supervise a controlled burn to help restore prairie habitat at Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve near Olympia. Photo: DNR

UPDATE (July 24, 2013): Tomorrow’s planned controlled burn has been cancelled due to changing fire conditions.

On Thursday July 25, if wind and weather conditions are favorable, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will conduct a controlled burn on 5 acres in Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve (NAP).

During the controlled burn, Mima Mounds will remain open but some trails will be closed to ensure public safety.

Why burn?
Fire has played an integral role in the development and maintenance of prairies and oak woodlands in the Puget Sound lowlands. Fire promotes growth of native prairie plant species and reduces thatch and shrubs in these rare grassland ecosystems. Planned burns are part of a larger effort to restore native prairie grasslands in western Washington. Controlled burns are a safe and cost-effective way to restore natural conditions. Burns are conducted when weather conditions allow for safe burning and the least impact of smoke on nearby residents.

Firefighters keep a close eye on prescribed burns. Photo: Kent Romney

Firefighters keep a close eye on prescribed burns. Photo: Kent Romney

Will firefighters be present during the burn?
Yes, firefighters will be present during the burn. Firefighters will use fire engines and other fire suppression techniques to prevent the burn from spreading. DNR and the Nature Conservancy both have considerable experience with prescribed fire. Annually, the Nature Conservancy manages or assists on 350,000 acres of controlled burns nationwide across many habitat types.

What about the burn ban?
There is a statewide burn ban in effect on all DNR-managed lands. This prescribed burn is an integral part of a restoration effort and complies to all regulations regarding prescribed burns during a burn ban.

When and where will the prescribed burns take place?

DNR will conduct up to four potential burns from late July through October; two at Mima Mounds NAP and two at Rocky Prairie NAP. The first prescribed burn is scheduled for Thursday July 25 at Mima Mounds NAP.

Mima Mounds NAP—two miles west of Littlerock, off Waddell Creek Road—protects the best remaining example of the unique Mima Mounds that have been the subject of scientific inquiry for decades.

Rocky Prairie NAP— located along Old Highway 99 five miles south of Tumwater —protects rare plant and animal populations. Like Mima Mount, it harbors some of the last and largest remnants of Washington’s once extensive native prairie, of which only about 10 percent remains. Prairies support a diversity of plants and animals native to Washington state.

DNR-managed natural areas — a significant statewide system of natural resources conservation areas and natural area preserves totaling more than 150,000 acres — protect native ecosystems and the plant and animal species that depend on them. Many also provide access for education and low impact public use.

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