Seney National Wildlife Refuge is comprised of a rich mosaic of wetlands and forest. Each year, a variety of these habitats are burned using prescribed fire.
Conducting prescribed fires in wetland areas may seem difficult, yet lush, green sedges and forbs will burn much of the year. The fires are primarily carried by the litter accumulation from past years growth. Amphibious fire engines are used during prescribed fire operations in the wetlands. These machines are capable of driving on land and "swimming" in open water. Their wide tracks and low ground pressure minimize impact to the habitat by reducing compaction of the soil. An average human footstep when walking produces 21 pounds of pressure per square inch, while the amphibious vehicles generate a mere 1.0 to 1.3 pounds of pressure per square inch. As the vehicles travel, they mat down the vegetation, wetting it in the water below. This wet vegetation can then be used as a fire break to help keep the fire contained.
As more people choose to live in rural areas, safely managing fire on the natural landscape is becoming more important. Each prescribed burn has its own plan and within the plan a specific prescription for the fire. Experienced and qualified fire managers track weather patterns and environmental conditions to target the fire to a specific window of opportunity. The targeted window allows a fire to be conducted safely, to minimize smoke impacts and meet management objectives. The plan is reviewed and approved on several levels before the prescribed burn is conducted.