West Point Lake’s burn season wraps up

Published 9:30 am Friday, March 24, 2023

Burn season at West Point Lake will soon be over, according to Chief Park Ranger Ben Williams. After Hardley Creek Park had its controlled burns on Wednesday, there is only one more scheduled wildfire reduction burn of the season.

“Our main goal for burning this area is to reduce the risk of wildfires,” Williams said. “What we’re doing when we’re executing a prescribed burn is we’re reducing the amount of fuel in the forest.”

This season has been shorter than usual due to the abundance of good weather conditions. This year the US Army Corps of Engineers rangers were able to conduct their burns in a matter of two and half weeks. 

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“It’s really dependent upon the situation and the weather for the day,” Williams said. “Every burn that we execute at West Point has a prescribed burn plan.”

West Point Lake’s Army Corps of Engineers burn plans rely on many variables including weather conditions. The humidity levels and wind speed and direction are important factors for ensuring that the prescribed burns don’t jump over fire breaks. 

The park rangers conduct controlled wildfire reduction burns every five years. These burns help reduce the fuel load like pine needles and leaf litter that accumulates on the forest floor.

The aim of the burns is to make potential wildfires more manageable by decreasing the materials that will best catch fire. 

“Even with this, once needles drop on it, you can have a wildfire, but it’s easily manageable and easily contained,” Williams said. “If you have an area that’s never had been treated with prescribed burns, and in 30 or 40 years, it’s probably going to get a lot of mortality in the stand.”

Though many in the area may recognize the smoke or fire as part of burn season, Williams advises citizens to call 911 if they see smoke or flames. 

“Most people in East Alabama-West Georgia are used to this,” he said. “Springtime is burn season in the South. It’s not unusual to round the corner and see something like that, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

The Us Army Corps of Engineers notify the Forestry Commission and the emergency call centers when they are conducting prescribed burns. 

“911 should know or would be able to find out if a prescribed burn is in the area whether its on Army Corps of Engineers property or private land,” Williams said.

The West Point Lake Army Corps of Engineers have an educational program that serves the local schools. In April, Valley High School’s ecology club is going to West Point Lake to work on a service project with the pollinator gardens.