Why the Rochester Fire Department started park fires

Controlled Burning in Rochester Park

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(ABC 6 News) – In Northwest Rochester resides Prairie Crossings park. Although looking at it, you probably couldn’t separate it from a wild life preserve. Rochester Parks and Recreation Park Planner Jeff Feece agreed. “It’s really becoming more of a savanah landscape as opposed to dense woodlands.”

Overrun with buckthorn and thistle, two invasive plant species that prevent other plants from growing, and trees infected by a fungus that weakened and killed trees here. Feece has seen a lot happened. “They’re not in great condition. Just in the few years I have been involved, we have lost a fair amount of the oak trees.”

Enter the Rochester Fire Department (RFD), taking part in a makeover for Prarie Crossings while also giving firefighters some experience. Kris Jungels, of the Battalion of Training for the RFD, said he saw a great opportunity with a controlled burning. “For the fire department, the goal is to provide some grassland and wildfire training for the firefighters.”

Ideal conditions for a controlled burn include light winds and drier conditions, but not too dry. “If it’s too dry, the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) will put out a Red Flag Warning (Elevated Fire Risk) and we will not be able to do controlled burns,” said Jungels.

Fall is the perfect time for a controlled burn in wooded areas due to all the dead plants and leaves allowing for a fire to burn more effectively. Gusty winds from Sunday evening and Monday morning were calmer by the afternoon. Had they not, the controlled burn would be harder, if not impossible.

Rain or snow could’ve also ruined the fire. With colder weather and more chances for snow inevitable in the future, Rochester fire felt a sense of urgency to get this controlled burn done as soon as possible.

Jungels noted the conditions. “It’s a little windy today, more than we like. However, we are running out of days to get this done.”

The controlled burn will continue at 10 a.m. Tuesday, continuing until the completion of the burn in the 8.5 acre park.