by Lorelei Stierlen, 2014
Our team, Dick Zartler, Rick Park, Steve Their and I had spent weeks preparing the fire breaks and cutting the cedars, applying all the lessons learned from the 2020 burn. We had implemented creative solutions to the problem of a lack of fuel on the ground in certain areas to ensure a complete burn on the entire west side. There were many pounds of seed standing by in my garage. Everything was inspected and approved by January. We were ready. Then it snowed, followed by what seemed to be never ending rain – and that did not bode well; our window for a winter burn was closing fast.
On March 8, the call came from Michael Covey, our burn boss. The prescribed burn of roughly 6 acres on the west end of the park was a go for the following day. It is an adrenaline rush knowing that all the effort was about to come to fruition, and the restoration of another section of Brockdale Park could begin. The McKinney fire department sent their senior crew to help lead the effort, and the Plano and Lucas fire departments were on site for wildfire training by 9AM on the 9th.
Just four short hours later, there remained but a few blackened tree branches and trunks, the rest was biochar. We started seeding the next day, and the spring rains will do the rest.
Some see fire as a destructive force, however, prescribed burns allow a return of the natural fire cycle to the grasslands. To add a quote, fire “…also has dominion over another province: change.” (Jim Butcher, Cold Days, 2012.) The surrounding community benefits when the fuel load is removed as this reduces the chance for destructive, accidental, wildfires to occur. The nutrients from the biomass are now contained in the biochar and will return to the soil for use by the emerging plants. And it allows those of us who are attempting to restore the Blackland Prairie to seed these areas with Collin County native species, thereby reducing the foothold of the invasive.
Just six days after the burn, the Indian plantain were back as if nothing had happened. Prescribed burns are the most valuable tool in my arsenal.