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Patuxent Research Refuge
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Controlled Burns 2012

Savannah burn One of the reasons the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) uses controlled burns is to reduce the accumulation of organic debris. High levels of organic debris fuel wildfires that could pose hazards to wildlife, visitors and local communities. Controlled burns do much more than make the refuge safer. They are used as habitat management tools to reduce non-native plant species, promote overall species diversity and replenish soil nutrients.

Controlled burns are only conducted after intense pre-planning and under specific weather conditions. Fire personnel are trained to accomplish the mission of each burn while ensuring that safety of personnel and the public remain the top priority.

Essential firefighting gear includes personal protective equipment (PPE) as illustrated in the photos below. Each firefighter must wear a hard hat, gloves, eye protection, and Nomex clothing, and must carry a fire shelter at all times.

Pictures shown here highlight types of equipment and techniques used in a controlled burn, and show habitat regeneration that occurs after a burn. In 2012, Patuxent Research Refuge conducted controlled burns on two main habitat types - grassland and forested savannah.

Photographs courtesy FWS staff.   Click on a photo to see a larger version


Many partners attend briefing for grassland burn.
Many partners attend briefing for savannah burn.
A variety of equipment is used for both controlled burns and wildland fire.
FWS tanker holding line
FWS Marshmaster holding line
FWS Bombadier and water pumpkin
Firefighters check drip-torches before continuing burn-out operation.
Firefighter using drip torch
Firefighter pulling hose
Fire edge - fire burns from the fire break towards the green.
Fire consumes vegetation.
A good burn
Savannah burn
Firefighters monitor fire activity.
Wildland urban interface (WUI); fire personnel monitor scene.
Smoke column
Oak at savannah burn
One week after the burn - A contingency fire break that was put in place, but not needed.
One week after the burn -  Controlled burns can restore soil nutrients, in addition to promoting growth of native plant species.
New vegetation is well established only two weeks after the burn.
Area NT-1 three months after burn
Native penstemon and bee three months after burn


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