20,000 acres of prescribed burns planned for Cherokee National Forest in 2020

The Forest Service plans to control burn more than 20,000 acres. / (MGN)
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CLEVELAND, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The Forest Service plans to control burn more than 20,000 acres throughout the 656,000 acre Cherokee National Forest in 2020.

Officials said a significant portion of the burning is planned for early spring.

The USDA said fires are often seen as great devastation and waste. Officials said while that may be true of wildfires, it is the opposite of prescribed fires. Prescribed fires are a treatment for a specific area.

Before prescribed burns happen, the USDA said a well documented "prescription" is written by Forest Service resource specialists.

The prescription will identify the objectives of the proposed burn, examine the possible environmental impacts, address smoke dispersal and describe how and when the burn will be conducted and under what conditions.

"At any point during a prescribed burn, a decision can be made to stop burning if conditions are not right. We conduct prescribed burns when conditions will minimize the amount of smoke produced and its effect on people. Safety is top priority of every prescribed burn. Before we begin any burn, managers consider the safety of people, property and the natural resources. Prescribed fire helps to reduce the chance of wildfires that could pose a threat to communities,” Trent Girard Fire Management Officer for the Cherokee National Forest said.

According to the USDA Forest Service, after a prescription has been approved, fire management personnel go about the task of planning and conducting the burn.

Prescribed fire is used in the Cherokee National Forest is used for several reasons including Hazardous Fuel Reduction. By burning an area under favorable conditions, fuels like grass, leaves, brush and downed trees are removed. Other reasons for prescribed burning include site preparation and promoting new growth in certain wildlife habitats.

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