Friday, February 09, 2007

Prescribed burn at Antietam: So Hot it's Cool!

Every day is remarkable at Antietam National Battlefield.

In a recent entry I showed our Natural Resources folks clearing brush above Burnside's Bridge. The natural question is...what happens to all of that brush? Thanks for asking.

Today ocurred a "prescribed burn" at the park. As I crested the "Final Attack" trail ridge toward the Otto Farm lane the smoke was already billowing into the 14 degrees above zero sky.
As if being a park ranger isn't cool enough, Our Law Enforcement and Natural Resources rangers are also fire fighters! And this burn was their show, to which they graciously invited me to take these pictures.

Zeke, Ed. and Joe are calling the shots as three brush piles are to be burned. Brush piles include: a large brush pile, a huge brush pile, and the mother of all brush piles. I'm glad I brought an extra battery.

This is the huge brush pile being torched. Law Enforcement ranger Eric with the drip torch coaxes the fire in the right direction. This fire was across about a 300 foot front.
A very cool flaming arrowhead on Zeke's ballcap.

One of our redoubtable college interns fueling the fire with brush.

Here, the drip torch applies it's flame to a three year accumulation of brush and...

viola! instant and intense oxidation.

Lindsey and Ed feed brush into the fire, and as it dwindles they change position to...

...the mother of all brush piles. This pile towered ten feet over my head. There was an enormous accumulation of fuel here. This pile was about fifteen feet tall and and hundred feet wide.

Two fuzees and a gallon of fuel oil turn it into a thundering conflagration towering 40 feet over our heads.

As Eric adds fuel...

...the heat grows in intensity. Suddenly this very cold morning becomes particularly warm.

Rangers look on as the flames jet into the frigid morning sky. These are, by the way, the same rangers you read about who fight the great fires in the western states. Whether they are fighting big fires or small fires, they approach all of them with a cool professionalism in which training and safety are the key components.

Eric, with his morning's work behind him.

Michelle briefly turns away from a blast of hot wind and ash, on this otherwise very chilly day.

These are the men and women of the U.S.National Park Service. I am very proud to call these professionals my colleagues.

By springtime this scorched patch where a brushpile once stood will be green with new, native growth.

This is the kind of work that occurs every day to restore Antietam National Battlefield to its 1862 appearance.

All of us work very hard, every day, to provide our visitors with the very best National Park experience of their lives.

Come visit, just north of Sharpsburg.

Ranger Mannie


Anonymous said...

Awesome pictures Mannie,I could feel the heat!!!
Kevin Booth

Cory Newby said...


Thanks again for making this post. So often on the Final Attack Trail I have wondered what would become of those enormous brush piles. They were remarkable as was the fire. It is really fantastic for you to share this insight with us.