Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Prescribed Burn Scheduled for Northern Berks County on Thursday

(05/03/17) The Pennsylvania Game Commission has scheduled a prescribed burn in Northern Berks County for Thursday.

According to the Game Commission, the prescribed burn will take place between 10:00am and 5:00pm in Upper Tulpehocken and Upper Bern Townships and may be highly visible in Schuylkill and Berks County.

State Game Land 110, totaling 10,130 acres, is located in southern Schuylkill County and northern Berks County. It contains a wide variety of habitat types within its borders and is home to a multitude of different wildlife species.  Since over 98% of this State Game Lands is forested and 81% of that area consists of mixed oak forests, the use of a controlled burn is very appropriate.

The area to be treated with a controlled burn is 1,508 acres in size and is located in Upper Bern and Upper Tulpehocken Townships, Berks County.  This stand is a mature oak stand that is dominated by chestnut oak, red oak and black oak.  Forest fires were a common occurrence on this ridge in the early 1900’s, which led to the establishment of this oak stand.  The combination of a lack of fire over the past 70 years and increased sunlight reaching the forest floor due to openings in the forest canopy, has led to a dense non-oak understory and the slow conversion of this oak forest to a birchmaple forest.

The goal of this controlled burn is to recreate the conditions that led to establishment of this aging oak forest. Currently there is a large amount of birch, sassafras, black gum and red maple seedlings that are overtopping and shading existing oak seedlings. If this condition continues, these oak seedlings will eventually be crowded out and die. A controlled burn will remove a large number of these competing seedlings and allow the oak seedlings to grow and thrive. Because of the large size of this controlled burn area, two ignition procedures will be used. First, workers on the ground will hand ignite the edges of the area to create a larger fire break. After this extended break is created, a helicopter will drop small balls into the interior of the area. The balls ignite when they hit the ground. This aerial ignition method allows us to more efficiently treat a large area and is safer because there will be no one inside the large unit working as an igniter. Weather permitting, it is anticipated that it will require one day to complete the entire 1,508 acres

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