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burning Loeffler’s corner (east) 2021

Weather conditions Friday (May 7) presented nearly ideal conditions for burning the east side of Loeffler’s corner. Because this patch of prairie is located immediately south of Hwy 55, our burn prescription calls for a stiff north wind to keep smoke off the highway. The weather forecast called for a high temperature in the mid 50s, an relative humidity to bottom out in the upper 20s, and north winds 10-15 mph. We couldn’t have asked for a better forecast. Amy W. and Matthew G. drove up from the Twin Cities to join Stuart, Gretel, and myself on our Friday burn crew.

During the morning, we prepared equipment for the burn. We loaded equipment after lunch and drove south to the burn unit. Along the drive, we spotted a very large plume of smoke from a USFWS burn to the southwest and once at the site, another USFWS burn 10 miles. Stuart, Gretel, and I staged vehicles and water buckets. We placed orange traffic cones along the highway and Sandy Hill Rd to alert passing traffic. The whole burn crew walked the entire burn break while reviewing the burn plan and discussing hazards. The east edge of the burn unit (along Sandy Hill Rd) presented few challenges including a mass of woody debris, wooden fence posts with barbed wire, and a pile of wood chips.

We ignited a test fire in the southeast corner of the burn unit. Once we secured the southern edge of the burn unit, Stuart and I ignited in parallel directions moving north. Matthew and I patrolled the eastern edge while Stuart, Gretel, and Amy did most of the hard work along the troublesome western edge. The eastern edge of the burn unit (along agricultural field) was very civilized. Matthew and I ignited along the fence line. The fire essentially put itself out. The western edge of the unit required more effort. Stuart ignited carefully around a brush pile, around fence posts, and around the large cottonwood while Gretel and Amy diligently kept watch to ensure none of the hazards caught fire. Realized winds 30 minutes into the burn were lighter and more variable than forecast, argggh… We started with steady N winds but wind direction wobbled with NW, N, and NE gusts alongside a couple short-lived E and W gusts. With topography and the dominant wind in our favor, Stuart and I kept in contact with radios. We adjusted our pacing to accommodate the fickle winds and complete the burn safely. While Amy and Stuart tended to wood chips around the cottonwood, I lit the head fire with help from Matthew and Gretel to hold the northern burn break. The head fire was not terribly exciting. We ended up igniting more slowly than anticipated and back burning ~90 percent of the burn unit. Though slower, this contributed to a consistently blackened unit. The wood chips were a hassle. Tiny plumes of smoke occasionally popped up demanding our attention. With the fire contained, we returned to the research base for dinner. Stuart, Gretel, and I then returned to the site after dinner to check on and extinguish any remaining logs/woodchips that were smoking.

Temperature – 52 F
Relative humidity – 32%
Wind speed (max gusts) – 10 (22) mph
wind direction – N
Ignition time: 2:06 PM
End time: 3:44 PM
Burn crew: Jared, Gretel, Stuart, Amy W., Matthew G.

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