Prescribed Burn- Lake Stanley Draper

The ODAFF Forestry Services Division recently performed preventative maintenance to some Oklahoma County forestland that was long overdue. Although the prescribed burn at Lake Stanley Draper, in southeast Oklahoma City, brought some concern from the public due to the dry conditions; it was a job that needed to be done since 2007.

The ice storms of 2007 added to the fuel on the forest floor as did the three years since the last prescribed burn. The goals of this prescribed burn included reducing the amount of fuel and improving habitat for wildlife, such as the Black-capped Vireo, an endangered species that nests around the lake.

Forestry staff needed a northwest wind between 15-25 miles per hour and humidity at 25-35 percent for a successful burn. The wind was a key factor for this burn since the smoke needed to be kept off I-240 to the north and the Tinker Air Force Base to the west.

“We have been waiting three years to get the right conditions,” Geissler said.

Although there are no burn bans in effect currently, conditions in the state are extremely dry. Geissler said often times seemingly hazardous conditions are actually the best conditions for a burn due to dryness, which allows for a more effective burn.

When conditions were right, crews had less than 24 hours to gather the resources and man-power for the burn on January 7, 2011.

The fire was conducted by approximately 15 foresters including two firing teams with 4-5 employees each, two two-man units operating bulldozers and Type 6 engine trucks as well as incident and division commanders. Forestry Services also had its Public Information Officer Michelle Finch-Walker available to handle media attraction and public concerns.

Fire teams started on the east side of the lake lighting protective fire lines before burning larger sections. With the northwest wind blowing, the fire spread toward spots that were already burning making it easier for foresters to keep it under control.

Forestry Services had staff on-hand ready to respond if the fire got out of control. One way this can be accomplished is with the skilled work of the two-man units. The bulldozer operator, who also drives the truck carrying the dozer, can have the machine unloaded in a matter of minutes and can start to establish a control line around the fire. The other member of the two-man unit drives a truck with water and tools who can fight the fire more directly.

A prescribed burn can help improve the health of a forest. It can reduce the dead and dying trees, which releases nutrients into the soil. With fewer trees comes less competition for resources and allows more sunlight to reach smaller trees and vegetation.

Crews burned approximately 600 acres on the east and north sides of Lake Draper. The burn diminished the amount of fuel on the forest floor and opened the canopy, which will help improve habitat for the Black-capped Vireo.

“All-in-all it was a huge success,” said Andy James, division supervisor for the burn and Area Forester for the southeast region.