Swailing: Hazard Reduction Burning

To encourage healthy re-growth in grassy undergrowth and leafy wooded areas, a controlled burn operation is undertaken in the spring when it is still cool and before saplings have begun to bud. In forestry and land management, this helps to reduce fungal disease, insect infestations, clear old thatch and keep invasive weeds under control.

Parks & Recreation here in Toronto have been doing their annual prescribed burning around the residential neighborhoods. This is a part of planned forest management to maintain a healthier forested area and also is a hazard reduction tool. By burning-off in a controlled manner the dead grasses and small fallen limbs and branches that have accumulated over the previous summer and winter, the likelihood of a more serious uncontrolled fire later in the season is reduced. An escaped campfire for instance could cause a bigger forest fire which would be harder to control in the drier summer and potentially involve homes and residential properties.

A Back-Burn Trail

Here you can see the control region where the undergrowth was raked back before the ‘back-burn’ was started.  There was insufficient fuel for the fire to progress across this trail so the fire spread up the hill back towards the main fire approaching from the other side. Where these two fires meet they run out of fuel and expire.

Notice in the above image that the branches are distributed on the burned area. They were cut and broadcast to limit the fire’s intensity in any one spot for too long.

Permits for swailing, the ‘hazard reduction burning’ must be obtained in advance. Local neighborhoods are advised of the impending event a few weeks in advance with posters, handbills and other notifications. The weather conditions must be perfect. The prescribed day can be postponed if the weather conditions are not ideal. It must be cool outside with no winds and preferably with rain in the forecast. Humidity at the onset would be a asset too as this would limit the intensity of the burn. The organization that performs the controlled burn requires licensing to do controlled burns but still may not be freed from liability should the fire get out of control and cause damage to personal property of home owners. There is always risk involved with controlled burning of woodlot areas but it is managed risk.

Benefits of Controlled Burning

Controlled burns are part of sensible forest management, prairie restoration programs and oddly enough, there are even greenhouse gas abatement issues at stake. A light controlled burn will prevent a larger wildfire later on which will cause more extensive damage and release far more carbon during the months when temperature inversions could trap the smoke closer to the ground, creating ’smog’ pollution. Even if the light burning is not complete or is performed in a ‘mosaic’ pattern’ over larger tracts of land, it still greatly limits the potential damage that a subsequently larger and uncontrolled wildfire can do.

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16 Responses to “Swailing: Hazard Reduction Burning”
  1. REPuckett Says...

    On April 19, 2009 at 3:02 am

    Very thorough and informative. I always enjoyed the smell of it the day after the burn. Is that strange? lol Great article, my friend.


  2. writing4angels Says...

    On April 19, 2009 at 8:09 am

    thanks for sharing. It was very informative.


  3. Paul Ruth Says...

    On April 19, 2009 at 9:18 am

    This was very informitive, I enjoyed it a lot.


  4. Jack Castle Says...

    On April 19, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Great pictures they really grasp your concepts on why forest fires are so dangerous to the snails.


  5. mysticdave Says...

    On April 19, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    awesome pictures and great info:)


  6. DA Cournean Says...

    On April 19, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    You did a lot of research on this. Great article. Well done!


  7. Jo Oliver Says...

    On April 19, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    Great job with this subject. It is sad that a few of the animals are injured or die, but I guess there isnt a solution for that.


  8. jo oliver Says...

    On April 19, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    oh…buzzed this one up!

    BTW: did you see my Alaska ice sculpture article?


  9. catlord Says...

    On April 20, 2009 at 6:25 am

    thnx for BUZZ’d. -I’ll be looking for ice sculp. article :-)


  10. Darla Beck Says...

    On April 22, 2009 at 10:53 am

    This is a very interesting article and one I really enjoyed reading.


  11. Chris Stonecipher Says...

    On April 23, 2009 at 9:26 am

    When I was a kid in Michigan, I remember seeing the county using controlled burns in the country side. Great article. I buzzed this up and SU’d


  12. Ruby Hawk Says...

    On April 23, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    My granddad used to burn off the fields and pastures. It scared the heck out of me.


  13. Evelyn Moore Says...

    On April 24, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    Interesting article, not a subject I had thought about before – so thanks for a great read.


  14. Louie Jerome Says...

    On April 25, 2009 at 4:15 am

    Great pics and info


  15. Fresh Writing Says...

    On April 27, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    Quality info, quality writing, and quality work…excellent!

    Nice images, as well- forgot to list that. :D

    -Fresh Writing


  16. CutestPrincess Says...

    On May 9, 2009 at 11:18 am

    Very well written piece..you have honestly made an effort…


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