"Private Landowners Are the Missing Link for Prescribed Burns"

"Community organizations teach individuals to manage their land with fire in states like Georgia, where 93 percent of the land is privately owned".

"The beginning of 2024 ushered in the perfect weather for a controlled forest fire in southwest Georgia: Mid-level humidity would stop the fire from permeating deep into the ground, and a steady wind would encourage the flames while moving their smoke up and out of the area. So on January 1, Tom Reid called the Georgia Forestry Commission and secured the state’s first burn permit of the year. The permit allowed him to start a fire on nine acres of his family property in Thomasville, Georgia, as a way of maintaining the land—something that’s become a retirement project for him.

The burn itself took four hours. Reid and his wife “dropped fire” together, pouring flames from the lit tip of a drip torch full of diesel and gasoline in a series of strategic lines to create heat. The lines merged together, pulling the smoke inward. The flames crept through the hardwoods and vines Reid wanted to eliminate, never scorching the loblolly pines above. Just hours later, when Reid came back to ensure the small patches of remaining fire were smoldering under control, birds were already flocking to the area to snack on insects and seeds.

After the burn, sunlight filtered through the pines down to the ground, still black with char. Although the property has seen fire for generations, Reid started carrying out prescribed burns himself only about a year ago.

“To make a long story short, I fell in love with it,” he says. When he came back to Georgia in 2018 after decades in Los Angeles, Reid followed along on burns led by a forester. He started asking questions about the process and grew interested in being able to manage a fire on his own, and teaching others to do the same. Now, he’s the president of the Southwest Georgia Prescribed Burn Association (PBA), which brings together people from across the region to share knowledge, tools, and time in service of prescribed fire. “I just think it’s so valuable to the property, to the land everywhere,” Reid says."

Ashira Morris reports for Sierra magazine February 20, 2024.

Source: Sierra, 02/21/2024