DEM Plans Low-Severity Prescribed Burn at Pratt Farm in Arcadia Management Area

The Rhode Island DEM has announced its intention to conduct a low-severity prescribed burn at Pratt Farm within the Arcadia Management Area, situated along the Exeter-Richmond line, on Thursday, March 14, weather and wind conditions permitting. Residents need not contact emergency services if they observe fire activity at Pratt Farm or detect smoke emanating from the area. DEM advises the public to refrain from approaching the vicinity to avoid diverting fire crews and unnecessarily occupying emergency personnel.

Last month, DEM disclosed plans to resume low-severity prescribed burns on various state lands, including Prudence Island and areas in Exeter, West Greenwich, Coventry, Richmond, and South Kingstown, in preparation for the spring prescribed fire season. Prescribed burning, a strategic tool employed by natural resources managers, serves to uphold habitat diversity and mitigate the risk of extreme fires by reducing hazardous natural fuels.

DEM disseminates information to the public through press releases, timely social media updates, and distribution of flyers to neighboring landowners after identifying a suitable “burn window” for prescribed fire operations. A burn window, determined by environmental variables such as fuel moisture and weather conditions, ensures that the fire achieves its objectives while remaining under control. Weather forecasting, with a higher accuracy rate for five-day forecasts compared to 10-day forecasts, and wind direction and speed are pivotal factors influencing DEM’s decision-making process regarding prescribed burns.

Pat MacMeekin, DEM Forest Fire Program Manager, expressed the department’s commitment to expanding upon successful prescribed fire projects conducted in previous years, emphasizing the restoration of fire-adapted ecosystems. DEM aims to reduce hazardous fuels, promote native plant species and wildlife habitat, and enhance firefighter training in wildfire response through prescribed burns.

In 2023, Rhode Island witnessed an active wildfire season, with DEM recording 78 wildfires spanning 582 acres. Notable incidents included the Congdon Mill Fire in West Greenwich, covering nearly 196 acres, and the significant Queen’s River fire in Exeter, scorching 286 acres. These events underscore the necessity for proactive measures to address wildfire risk, particularly in light of climate change projections indicating increased fire frequency in Southern New England.

DEM’s Forest Fire Program experts, under the Division of Agriculture and Forest Environment, will oversee the prescribed burns, adhering to detailed operational and safety protocols. Prior to each burn, a prescribed burn plan is developed by a qualified burn boss, with firebreaks and other site preparations implemented. Continuous monitoring of fire behavior, fuels, and weather conditions ensures adherence to prescribed parameters, with shutdown procedures in place if necessary.

Collaboration with local authorities, including fire chiefs and regulatory bodies such as the DEM Office of Air Resources, underscores DEM’s commitment to conducting prescribed burns responsibly. By employing prescribed fire as a management tool, Rhode Island aligns its land management practices with neighboring states, contributing to regional climate change resilience efforts.




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