Unified Effort Protects Town and Refuge
Refuge and fire staff from several national wildlife refuges in Wisconsin joined forces at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge to burn 611 acres along its east boundary. With additional help from local volunteer fire department members, conservation organizations, and the State of Wisconsin, the prescribed burn reduced the fire threat to the adjacent town of Necedah and helped restore vegetation to safer, pre-settlement conditions.
The team of 28 people completed the burn in grass, brush, and slash under pine and oak trees next to housing developments and within ½ mile of a state highway. Flaggers controlled traffic on adjacent roads.
The prescribed burn included two of ten units of restored Barrens habitat on the refuge. Starting in 1998, the project converted these areas from potentially volatile mature jack pine and oak forest. Maintaining these units as Barrens is critical to protecting the community, which has already burned twice in its history.
Throughout the project, the refuge has relied upon the support and involvement from other refuges and outside partners, due to the overall complexity of the burns – unit size, proximity to the town, and potential explosive adjacent fuels. More often than not, the burns at Necedah require additional resources to accomplish the goals, according to Tom Zellmer, Central Zone Fire Management Officer for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Midwest Region.
“Not once has a need for assistance been denied… Were it not for the ‘whatever you need’ attitude by all the folks throughout the zone, many of the burns at Necedah would not take place,” said Zellmer. “In less than 24 hours, resources were requested, committed and ready to assist with the operation. This prescribed burn was just one example of a common theme where everyone eagerly stepped up to ‘get the job done.’”
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