Property owners may be able to get underbrush burned for free



By:Marcia Miller, Telegraph Staff Writer June 05, 2003



Thanks to the increasing operation of a special team of Division of Forestry (DOF) firefighters known as the Region II Mitigation Team, area property owners may be able to get free controlled burning or mowing of underbrush on their property.
The mitigation team has been in existence for some time, but the team has recently stepped up operations in the six-county district that includes Bradford.

Travis Dugger, senior ranger on the team, said that decisions on whether or not the team offers its services free of charge will be made based on the wildfire threat posed to homes in the area of the land in question. For example, if a property owner wants underbrush burned on two acres that lie in the middle of a 100-acre forested tract, the property may not qualify for the free service. A two-acre lot that lies near a number of homes, however, would probably qualify.


In order to find out if acreage qualifies for free services, property owners in this area should contact Forest Supervisor Steve Ripley at 386-496-3311. A survey of the land in question will have to be done before a decision is made on whether services will be offered free of charge.


DOF Ranger Mike Work said the services are also available for a fee to property owners who do not qualify for the free service. Costs depend on the acreage to be covered and the time it takes to cover it. For controlled burning, for example, minimum cost is $50 and rates are $10 per acre for the first 50 acres and $6 per acre after that. Plowing costs a minimum of $25 with a rate of $60 per hour.


Note that if a property does qualify for free service once, it will not be offered free service in the future. Scheduling controlled burning or mowing will also depend on the weather conditions.


The service is offered free to some properties because keeping fuels like dried branches, pine needles, leaves and grasses cleared from forested areas near homes will help reduce the likelihood that homes or lives will be lost to wildfires.


Dugger and his team were completing a controlled burn on 20 acres in the Deerfoot Trail area of the county (near Sampson City) on May 29.


He said the mitigation team travels all over a six-county area performing controlled burns and mowing down underbrush - both on a free and charge basis.


Work said the team is very important to DOF, because every controlled burn or mowing job the mitigation team performs is one less job the local forestry firefighters have to undertake. Keeping local forestry firefighters with their limited resources free to respond to brush fires is an important service, said Work.


"If we (local forestry firefighters) are doing a controlled burn, we can't just leave that burn to respond to a wildfire. We have to make sure the burn is completely shut down before we leave it and that could reduce our response time to a wildfire," he said. "But it's also important that we get mitigation (controlled) burns taken care of so we can reduce the future risks to property owners."


The process for completing a controlled burn begins with plowing a firebreak of six to eight feet wide around the area in question. A firebreak consists of an area that is scraped bare of vegetation.


DOF firefighters then use "firepots" filled with a mixture of diesel and gasoline to set a line of fire along one side of the property near the firebreak. The fuel dribbles out of the end of the firepot and is ignited by the flame assembly, staring fires that do not burn up into the trees.


A line of fire is then also set a distance away along another side of the firebreak and allowed to burn back toward the first fire. Work said this technique is quicker and more efficient than simply setting fire to one side of the area and waiting for it to burn to the other side of the property.