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Controlled burn at Burns Park expected to continue in 2014

A prescribed burn that started in Burns Park earlier this year is expected to continue through 2014, according to Bob Rhoads, director of the North Little Rock Parks and Recreation Department.

Rhoads’ comments came in the form of a letter issued to Mayor Joe Smith and the members of the North Little Rock City Council. The letter was presented to the council members during their regular meeting held on Monday, Dec. 9.

“The Parks and Recreation Commission has given staff permission to continue the ‘burn program’ starting now through the end of 2014,” Rhoads said.

The burn is being accomplished in cooperation with the Nature Conservancy and the Arkansas Forestry Commission and is being coordinated with city police, fire and other departments as need, according to Rhoads.

“Bert Turner will be the burn manager in charge of the project,” Rhoads said.

Rhoads said prescribed burns usually take place between October and April.

In 2013, the Burns Park prescribed burn was planned to take place between late February and late March.

A prescribed burn is a planned fire conducted to achieve specific objectives. “They are a proven and safe way to reduce fuel loads in forests and other areas and prevent wildfires,” Rhoads said. “The fire generally does not reach more than two to three feet in height.”

The area in Burns Park selected for the burn basically consists of the forested area bound by Interstate 40 on the north and east, the park boundary on the north and west, the soccer complex on the south and the golf course on the south and east, according to Rhoads.

“Within the unit are most of the park’s multiuse, natural-surface trails as well as the forested areas around the Covered Bridge, BMX track, RV Park, several pavilions and several open grassy areas,” he said. “The area has been broken up into several sections to take advantage of the natural fire breaks (roads, trails, creeks, etc.) and have better smoke and fire behavior management.”

The impacted area is being burnt because it has not underwent such a burn in at least the past 40 years and it exists in the midst of an urban environment.

He said before the burn the area had a thick buildup of leaf litter and woody debris.

“The thick bed of debris on the ground and heavy growth of vines makes the area a tinderbox with a strong potential to create a very dangerous crown fire should a wildfire break out,” Rhoads said. “Additionally, the thick debris has inhibited growth of leafy forbs which make up a large part of the diet for many types of wildfires.”

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