From the ashes

Huge plumes of smoke rose from the prairie grasses of Bauer Slough near Briggs Woods Park on Tuesday. Crews worked from the morning through the afternoon not to put out the fire, but control it.

The prescribed fire was one of several that Hamilton County Conservation has conducted this year. Conservation Executive Director Brian Lammers said the burns help to control invasive species and hasten the growth of native prairie plants.

“There are certain forbs within prairie plants that actually respond to fire. The heat starts their germination process,” Lammers said. “Before settlers got here, Iowa was covered in prairie. It thrived because of the fires back then from lightning strikes and that controlled a lot of the vegetation that was here.”

Many local prairies are burned in a controlled manner every three to five years by Conservation crews. Those burns are usually held in April. Exactly when a burn is conducted depends on the weather.

Burn crews look at many factors when they consider holding a burn. Lammers said that includes the temperature, wind level, humidity, dew point and ceiling heights on low-level clouds.

When conditions are right, crews will work through the day until the burn is done. Tuesday’s fire covered about 200 acres of prairie. Seven crew members controlled the fire, which Lammers said is about the usual crew size. Conservation burn crew members have between five and 25 years of experience, according to Lammers.

The ground remains black and charred at Bauer Slough. However, Lammers said their efforts will come to fruition very soon.

“In less than two weeks, you’ll see it green and back up again,” Lammers said. “You’ll see a huge boom to those prairie flowers this summer.”