By Travis Gulbrandson
Area residents may have noticed smoke rising off Spirit Mound Monday afternoon, but they might not have known it resulted from the actions of Vermillion firefighters.
The fire was part of a controlled burn that is performed yearly at the request of the state as part of its schedule for land management.
“They’re trying to burn the overgrowth and the dead vegetation off to give way for the new vegetation,” explained fire chief Shannon Draper. “They don’t do the whole area at once because of the natural prairie grass. If you burn it all at once, it would all come back as the same weeds and grasses, but if they do it in stages, they get a variety of plants out there.”
“The process is typically doing some legwork, such as making sure the weather and the conditions are right, because we want to keep everybody safe, including the public,” said Capt. Tony Klunder, head of wildland firefighting. “We have to make sure that we have enough people and resources, and make sure there’s a control line around whatever needs to get burned. Then we pretty much just put fire on the ground, and try and (watch) the wind so it doesn’t get out of hand.”
Six members of the Vermillion Fire Department took part in the controlled burn, which took place from noon to 5 p.m. Monday.
Draper said the firefighters burn a “fire line” around the desired area so that the fire does not spread, in addition to using hand tools to dig fire lines for further containment.
“They’ll burn it to wherever they want it, and they’ll put it out if it’s spreading outside that area,” Draper said.
The controlled burns are “very valuable” as an exercise for the firefighters, Draper said.
“It’s excellent training for them, because this is the work that they’ll be doing when our crews are called up to head out west into the hills, or even locally for brushfires that occur later on in the season when it becomes drier.
“It’s a lot of valuable education that they’re getting out there,” he said.
Klunder agreed, adding, “We had one firefighter who was a trainee for one of the positions in wildland fire, so he did some tasks to gain experience and also get some of his training complete. The other guys learned some tactics on using fire in the wildland, as well as engine operations and tactics.”
It is a good opportunity to check the equipment, too, Draper said.
“As well as exercising our equipment, it gives us an opportunity for the dry season to make sure all our equipment is operating properly and is ready for the season,” he said.