On April 28th, Devil’s Lake State Park staff, the Wisconsin State Natural Areas & Nature Conservancy burn crews, burned some 500 acres of Roznos Meadow on the south-east corner of the park. This prescribed burn had been in the works for some time and finally the weather and staffing came together to get it done.
Fire is a key element in the overall health of Wisconsin landscapes. Fire encourages growth of native plants and trees while eliminating (or at least slowing down) invasive species. In fact some native trees such as oaks and hickories have evolved adaptations to protect them from fire injuries, demonstrating that fire in an important and completely normal part of our environment. Controlled burns also help prevent dangerous and costly forest fires by clearing out dead wood, brush and other flammable material.
On April 27th, 400 acres around Parfrey’s Glen State Natural Area had been burned. With staff in the area and another day of great weather on the way, it was decided to burn Roznos Meadow as well.
The fire at Roznos was a doozie! The prairie hadn’t been burned since 2007 and was pretty scruffy. Once the flames got moving it looked like an image from Dante’s Inferno out there. Columns of heavy smoke often covered the flames that sometimes reached higher than the trees. In the smoke you could see a kaleidoscope of colors; reds, yellows, blues, greens and magentas depending on the light, the size of the flame and the materials burning. It was certainly something to see!
Even a controlled burn of this size dampens down quickly. By evening most of the crews had gone home and left just a few park staff members to circle the perimeter and put out spot fires as they came up in the changing weather. Burn zones are usually monitored for 24hrs a day for a couple days afterward to be sure nothing relights. This can happen too. In fact, at about 9pm last night, park naturalist Sue Johansen (Who happens to also be a certified Prescribed Fire Burn Boss, btw!) was doing her shift babysitting the burn area, discovered that a tree had suddenly burst into flames just as she was going home for the evening. She was able to put the tree out on her own in the failing light. This morning when she checked on the tree, the fire was still out… but the tree had fallen over!
This morning, under the beautiful blue sky, Roznos Meadow looks a bit charred. Still the fires are pretty much out and in just a couple of weeks the valley will burst back to life under a carpet of fresh neon green grass. It will be an amazing sight to see!
For more pictures of this, and other burns in the area visit our “Prescribed Burns” gallery on Pinterest. Click here!