The 2009 spring burn season is over. It required an 8 week period beginning the first week of March to get in 12 burn days. We burned about 5,200 acres this spring, consisting of 25 watersheds/pastures, plus numerous plots, restoration sites, and managerial subdivisions around headquarters. (An additional 125 acres were burned in the winter and fall watersheds last February and November). All planned units were burned and there were no wildfires.
Burning prairie can be a piece of cake--but not this year! With the high biomass production, the 2009 burn program was tough and the fires were extremely hot. Keeping the fire contained in the target watershed was made easier by the excellent fireguard preparation and equipment maintenance by Tom, Jim, and Paul.
Successful burning is dependent upon the efforts of numerous individuals. We had 50 people participate in the spring burns. The core Konza burn crew consisted of Greg Zolnerowich, Tom VanSlyke, Jim Larkins, Amanda Kuhl, Eva Horne, and Paul Galle.
Faculty, biology staff, graduate students, undergraduates, docents, and off-campus volunteers filled the remaining fire crew positions. Andy Klein, who is not directly affiliated with Konza or KSU, was the top volunteer participant this year (8 burns). Konza director John Briggs lead faculty participation with 7 burns, followed by Jim Koelliker (Engineering; 6 burns) and Gerry Kuhl (Animal Science emeritus; 6 burns). In addition to the Biology faculty, we also had faculty participation from Agronomy and English Departments.
Graduate student participants were lead by Jackie Ott and Emilie Throop, both with 4 burns. The Biology staff, lead by Rosemary Ramundo (6 burns), Patrick O'Neal (4 burns) and Jeff Taylor (4 burns), were especially important in helping when we were short of crew members. One Biology undergraduate (Caleb Fabrycky) and one Agronomy undergraduate (Angela Tran) participated in 3 burns. (These burn numbers do not differentiate between short burn days and those long days that stretched to 8 hours; total hours tabulated after the fall burns are the numbers used for the prestigious crimson drip-torch award).
An important component of the burn program is the Konza docents. This year, 9 docents participated in the spring burning, lead by Myron Calhoun (4 burns, despite a nearly severed finger), Larry Loomis, and Paul Gleue (each with 3 burns). For all the docent volunteers, we hope that involvement in burning helped enhance their appreciation and understanding of Konza Prairie.
For those that missed out, the next opportunity to enjoy burning grassland under controlled conditions will be the growing-season burns conducted in late July. These burns provide a different perspective of grassland burning from the normal dormant season burns. After that, we have two burns in November. Solicitation for help will be sent out in advance. This year, the on-line sign up was a hugh success and will be continued next year (with a different url address).
Thanks to all who expressed a willingness to help with the burn program. Your efforts help make Konza Prairie a premier grassland research station.
Chief of Fire Operations
Konza Prairie Biological Station
Division of Biology
Kansas State University
Manhattan, Kansas 66506