The skyline northeast of the Russell Wildlife Area was glowing with flames and smoke Friday night as the Mahaska County Conservation Board burned a native prairie plot.
MCCB staffers and Pheasants Forever chapter members donned protective gear and carried drip torches to light up a large plot of native prairie land. Fire is an important tool in maintaining the health of the native grasses and flowers.
“The reason for doing the prairie burn is to rejuvenate the habitat,” MCCB Director Dave Sedivec said at an informational meeting at the Russell Wildlife Center before the burn.
Sedivec said the volunteers would burn the entire plot as there is habitat for wildlife surrounding the area.
Sedivec said people could watch the prairie burn from 200th Street. Several families and individuals either walked or drove to the burn site to watch the fire display that began a little after 8 p.m.
The fire crew did a pre-burn on the northside of the plot to form a fire break as the wind was out of the south.
Sedivec said weather forecasters predicted winds during the day Friday to be from 23 mph gusting to 28 mph. Around 9 p.m., the wind was blowing at about 9 mph.
“The weather service was right on today,” Sedivec said.
Sedivec said the work crew always thinks safety first when conducting a prescribed burn.
Crew members wear Nomex fire-resistant clothing, good work boots and have radios.
“Communication is key,” Sedivec said.
Sedivec said the burn crew had a tractor with a water sprayer, several ATVs with water sprayers as well as backpack mounted sprayers.
To light the fire, crew members carried drip torches that spray a steady stream of a diesel and gasoline mixture.
“They’ll drag fire along” the route, he said.