Controlled Burn in Bankhead Forest visible from Huntsville

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The Alabama Forestry Commission confirms a controlled burn is creating the huge plume visible all over the Tennessee Valley today.  It’s roughly a 1,000-acre burn.

Smoke from Lawrence County seen from Monte Sano (55 miles away)

Watch the plume of smoke expand from GOES-16

What is a controlled burn?

According to the National Forestry Service:

Controlled burning is any fire intentionally ignited to meet specific land management objectives, such as to reduce flammable fuels, restore ecosystem health, recycle nutrients, or prepare an area for new trees or vegetation. Controlled burning is a management tool that when used under specifically controlled conditions will help land stewards manage forests and rangelands for multiple use.

Land management agencies have done a tremendous job educating the public about the dangers of wildland fire and reducing the number of human caused fires. However, it is important to realize that not all fire is bad. In fact, many of our ecosystems are dependent on fire.
Fire historically crept through these areas with low intensity.

Every 5 to 15 years, fire regenerated the forest and cleansed the understory of potential hazardous fuels. These historic fires were not the devastating wildfires of recent years.
Frequent cool fires acted as a natural agent reducing surface fuels and all but eliminated large, stand replacing, fire events that have become too frequent during the last three decades.
Fire exclusion practices have resulted in forests being plagued with a variety of problems, including overcrowding resulting from encroachment of species normally eliminated by fire; vulnerability of trees to insects and disease; and inadequate reproduction of fire resistant species. In addition, heavy accumulation of fuel — dead vegetation of forest floors– can cause catastrophic fires, threaten public safety, impair forests and ecosystem health, and degrade air quality.

The Forest Service has made it a priority to reintroduce fire into fire dependent ecosystems to help promote ecosystem health. Controlled burning is viewed by the land management agencies as an agent of change that helps “mother nature” return an ecosystem to its historic range.