Prescribed burn enhances mission readiness

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jasmine M. Barnes
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs

The 23rd Civil Engineer Squadron partnered with Tyndall and Eglin Air Force Bases, Fla. to conduct a prescribed a burn April 21, 2022 at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.


The team conducted the burn to reduce wildland fuel loads, improve training accessibility and enhance wildlife habitat.


“Every year, the underbrush grows, and if the forest never burned, the vines and bushes get so thick you can’t hardly walk through the woods, and that affects our military training access,” said John Crain, 23rd Wing forester. “I work with the Air Force Wildland Fire Center to get the burns arranged and done.  “They send a crew up here to supply trained wildland firefighters from Tyndall and Eglin to actually help us do the burn.”


The 23rd CES conducts burns on upland forests to simulate the historic natural fire interval of every 2-4 years while maintaining mission-essential training sites and fire-dependent wildlife habitats.


When Moody Airmen are conducting land navigation exercises or simulated search and rescue missions, it is imperative they can navigate their way through wooded areas on base. Additionally, burning controls the height and type of vegetation allowing for more favorable conditions for training and certain fire-dependent wildlife species.


“Once the vegetation gets to a certain height, you can’t mow it and it gets too expensive for chippers,” Crain said. “Burning is the cheapest way to do it and it’s pretty natural. We conduct the burns under conditions where it won’t hurt the larger trees and where the intensity is kept low.”


“(Burning) also reduces the tick population and it’s very beneficial to a lot of rare and threatened species like the gopher tortoise and the indigo snake,” Crain added. “They like areas that are burned regularly because it helps promote new green vegetation near ground level, reduces the amount of shading, and opens up the area for easier travel.”


To safely conduct the burn, the 23rd CES goes through an extensive approval process to include fire department, security forces, command post and base-wide notifications.


“A lot of people don’t realize the amount of administrative work and coordination that goes into conducting one of these prescribed burns safely,” said Greg Lee, 23rd CES environmental element chief.  “People just see smoke, but we have to have a burn permit and notify the entire wing leadership and (other agencies) before the burn.”


Once the base and the local community are notified and the burning takes place, the areas that are burned often green up quickly and develop a more open park-like appearance with more grasses and less brush.


“After you burn it, a lot of new green vegetation comes back, which is good for wildlife,” Crain said. “The nutrients cycle back into the soil and this helps the new plant growth preferred by many fire-dependent wildlife species.”