Controlled burn prairies | Living the Country Life

Controlled burn prairies

The native grasses in your prairie might love a good fire this spring!
In early April, Jim and Debbie Morrison burn about 15 acres of their Minnesota prairie. They have a crew of friends who help and the cooperation of authorities.
By September, the prairie is revitalized. Fire takes out invasive weed species, stunts the growth of cool-season grasses, and keeps trees from creeping into the prairie.
Jim got a hand this year from the Pheasants Forever chapter, who had experienced volunteers.

Quite a show

A 10-foot-high wall of fire roars and thrashes through the prairie, licking wildly into a blackening sky. Tall grasses bend on the fire's advance, buckling in the heat. As the fire rolls on, ashes fall and join the smoking, sooty, blackened mess that is the new landscape.

With a great roar, the fire races to the prairie's end and, like a giant leaping from a cliff, loses purchase as it crosses the blackened back burn line. Starved for fuel, it dies out with a whimper, peaceful as a child blowing out a candle.

Downwind, the soot-covered crew leans on rake handles and shovels. This fire was no accident. Jim Morrison is the fire boss and co-owner of this property. He and his wife, Debbie, lean against their sooty four-wheeler and talk about their controlled burn in the waning light.

"It's quite a show!" Jim says. "We never have problems getting helpers to show up for it." He lights the fire and Debbie and the other folks "work their water wagons, shovels, and rakes to contain this thing once we get it going," he says. "It takes a crew."

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