Fire helps native plants in Virginia
The whole fire community mourns the loss of 19 firefighters from the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew, who lost their lives battling the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona on June 30. Our condolences to the family and friends of these brave heroes.
From February through the end of May, a fire crew burned over 500 acres to restore fire adapted plant communities that occur on the pine and scrub oak sandhill communities of Virginia. The sandhills support a number of plant species that are rare in Virginia including Plukenet’s flatsedge, sandy-woods chaffhead and viperina. There are also many wildflowers, including orchids, trilliums, bellworts and lilies that are dependent on frequent fires.
“There are some really unique species coming back in the area,” says Steve Hubner of the Service’s Northeast Fire Program. “Fire was suppressed for many years in the area and when the state acquired the land, they started to reintroduce fire as a management tool.” The burn took place in the Antioch Pines Natural Area Preserve, the Chub Sandhill Natural Area Preserve, the Blackwater Ecological Preserve and the Cherry Orchard Bog Natural Area Preserve.
Members of the crew hailed from a number of states, including New York and Virginia over to Arizona and California. They were biologists, foresters and land managers all from various agencies, including the Fish and Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy, Americorps, and the Student Conservation Association. “We move around Virginia helping each other with burns when they are needed; no one can really burn without the help from other agencies,” says Hubner.
The successful burns are not only due to partnerships, but to the dedicated crew members that led the productive burns. “ We were burning for a third day in 90 degree temperatures,” says Hubner, “and everyone was still smiling at the end of it all!”