Refuge Controls Army Fires
November 15, 2010
Tracers shot from Blackhawk helicopters sparked two fires at the Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in southeastern Indiana, burning 1,350 acres before being stopped by refuge firefighters.
Despite drift smoke hampering aircraft visibility for a few days, army training exercises went largely uninterrupted. “I want to thank the Big Oaks NWR firefighters for their professionalism during these operations,” said Lt. Col. Matt Sweeney, Commander at Jefferson Range.
Military exercises often spark wildfires at Jefferson Range, just part of the Big Oaks NWR, which covers 50,000 acres of southeast Indiana. Refuge fire officials regularly set prescribed fires to prevent dry, hazardous fuels, mostly grasslands, from overcoming the refuge and range.
Both fires started November 6, in an area within existing fire breaks. Eleven Big Oaks NWR firefighters responded, conducting burning operations - igniting unburned vegetation ahead of the advancing fire – to quickly contain the flames, then letting the fire burn itself out.
“Everyone did a great job getting around these fires, said Big Oaks Refuge Manager Joe Robb. “I’m proud of the ongoing cooperation between our crews, led by Fire Management Officer Brian Winters, and the National Guard troops stationed here at Jefferson Range.”
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