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Using Controlled Burns to Help Prevent Wildfires at Rural Homes and Ranches

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Controlled burns help to protect rural homes from wildfires as was done here in Georgia in early April, 2014.

Controlled burns help to protect rural homes from wildfires as was done here in Georgia in early April, 2014.


Periodic controlled, or prescribed, burns of woodlands in forested areas are needed to reduce the amount of combustible material on the forest floor and help prevent wildfires that can endanger homes, ranches and outbuildings. In my  case,  a late winter ice storm had caused pine and other limbs to fall which increased the amount of combustible material to the point that a wildfire could endanger my house if  the wind was blowing towards the structure.  I contacted my county office of the Georgia Forestry Commission and arranged to have the burn done in early April before the trees leafed out and the turkeys started to nest.

While waiting for my request to advance to the top of the Forestry Commission’s  list, I had several things to do. These were:

1. Get my well repaired so that I would have a reliable source of water. 2. Clear the debris from the ice storm out from under the trees in my yard. 3. Clear the fallen trees and limbs from my forest trails so that the Forestry Department dozer could safely work. 4. Move my propane tank to the other side of the house. 5. Rake leaves and twigs away from the edge of the house lot and burn them to keep the lawn from catching. You can view a video of the burn below or at:

I had only a half-day notice that the burn was to take place. I had nearly completed clearing the trail, and I hurriedly  cut and drug the last few trees back to the house so that I could burn them later.  Then, I strung out my water hoses and started to put down a wet line in the lawn next to the hedgerow where the fire was to be started. The two-man crew arrived with a John Deer dozer that is about the size of a Cat D6.  It had a V blade and a drag-behind plow for cutting water diversion structures. After showing them where the well and septic tank  were in the side yard, they decided to do firebreaks on three sides of the rectangular burn area and use my wet line to protect the grass and clover growing in the lawn.

Because the firebreak was to be cut along a cleared  trail, power line right-of-way and an abandoned forestry road, the plowing went very quickly. The fire was started at about 2:00 PM, and the 20 ac. burn was done by 5:00 PM. There was one small breakout of fire which was quickly extinguished by the water truck. A few stumps still burning three days later, but as everything  around them was already burned, these few hot spots presented no  danger.  Rains on the third and fourth days after  the burn extinguished the fire. One unexpected consequence as that a large hollow  oak caught fire inside the trunk and fell across one of my trails.

The only place the fire escaped was one small area between a power line and the road.

The only place the fire escaped was one small area between a power line and the road.

This entire process was quickly done and quite successful. In Georgia, the landowner pays for the costs of fuel and transportation, which is my case was less than $300 for the 20-acre burn. If a person had to hire a dozer to do the same work, charges could easily be on the order of  $100s of dollars an hour, depending on the size of the dozer, time to get it to the site, etc.


Written by hoveysmith

April 9, 2014 at 8:38 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. The bill from the state forestry department was their minimum charge of $150 for the equipment used in putting in the fire breaks.


    April 19, 2014 at 4:47 pm

  2. It’s going to be end of my day, but before end I am going to read this excellent post.

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    May 13, 2014 at 8:17 am

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