Preventing a wildfire from burning out of control is actually possible - prior to the fire.
That is why the Southeast Mass Hazardous Fuels Mitigation and Ecosystem Restoration project that was developed with a $1.97 million stimulus grant in partnership with the Department of Conservation and Recreation's (DCR) Bureau of Forest Fire Control and Forestry and The Nature Conservancy is so vital.
Recovery Act Impact: DCR/TNC Forest Fire Control
The project involves 400 acres of prescribed fire treatment and 600 acres of mechanical fire treatment in the southeastern part of the state which, according to David Celino, the Chief Fire Warden for DCR, has vegetation type that is highly flammable and has the potential for extremely fast moving fires. In fact, said Celino, it is the second most volatile in the country.
"We are taking the fuel away from the fire," said Celino in explaining the prescribed burns. "We are trying to address wildfire issues in high risk communities. ARRA gave us a chance to do that."
In addition to the prescribed fire program, the project involves the development of fire protection plans for the six communities on Martha' Vineyard, fire prevention programs throughout Southeast Massachusetts, and wildlife fire training programs for the firemen in the region.
"We have been trying to get this going for 10 years," said Aaron Whiddon, the District Patrolman and Burn Boss for DCR.
Whiddon was nearly laid off but the stimulus award kept his job as well as those of 12 other DCR fire management jobs and five seasonal fire management workers.
According to Whiddon, a prescribed fire treatment's main objective is the reduction of hazardous fuels in the forest, which is a public safety issue. But the prescribed fires also provide restoration to the ecosystem and opportunities for fire training.
"The prescribed fires present an incredible classroom," said Celino.
The prescribed fires also require an incredible amount of preparation. When
And crucial to the keeping the people in southeastern Massachusetts safe. "Without the ARRA funds, the impact would be that there would be no activity in this region and for these people that means the fire hazards remain," said Celino. "This is proactive. If there was a fire here without the prescribed fires, we wouldn't be able to stop it. We need to manage the issue."