Tag Archives: fire

Remembering the Kennebunkport Fire

October of 1947 in the Northeast was not the typical autumn we’ve grown to love and celebrate today. Seventy years ago this month, portions of New England were facing catastrophic wildfires, some stretching eight miles in length along the coast of Maine, shaping the landscapes of today including sections of Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. The fire that became known as the Kennebunkport Fire destroyed over 200 homes and caused $3,250,000 in damages, which is valued at over 35 million dollars today.

Photos courtesy of Brick Store Museum 

If a fire in New England of this magnitude were to occur today, one can only begin to fathom the devastation this could cause. The thickly settled houses and communities lining the east coast drastically increases risk to the homes and people living in the area. In efforts to prevent a fire of this magnitude, it takes a group effort, combining resources from, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service to safely manage the North County Interagency Fire Zone. Fire managers work closely with partners to share equipment and personnel. They also rely upon each other for expertise and help in managing lands for habitat, reducing the risk of wildfire, and responding to wildfires. Together, they also spread awareness and fire education to communities.

In the Northeast Region, the Service had a total of 58 staff, mostly collateral duty, that led fire and assisted on over 105 fire incidences across the country this year alone, some spending three months or more away from home or responding to multiple incidents. While a relatively small portion of the Service, they often have highest number of duties and take on crucial roles in responding to these emergencies.

To recognize the first responders that raced through the area and the current staff that work to keep us safe, events are being held this week in multiple communities in Maine. When it comes to fire, we all work together to ensure the health and safety of communities, firefighters, wildlife, and habitat.

Learn more about the history of the Kennebunkport Fire.

A tool to hunt fires in the Great Dismal Swamp?

It’s been two years since a lightning strike sparked the Lateral West Fire that burned at Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge for four months. The fire burned over 6,000 acres in Virginia and North Carolina as more than 400 firefighters from local, state and federal government agencies worked to extinguish it.

Our friends at NASA’s Langley Research Center have begun a project to design and build equipment that could help locate fire sources within the Great Dismal Swamp. Check out how Mike Logan, an aerospace engineer is leading a team to design an build an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle to do just that, which could help put out fires in the swamp and possibly save money.

Lateral West

A firey tornado rages off Corapeake Road in the Lateral West Wildlfire on Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. The fire burned in the scar of the 2008 South One Fire in a restoration area for Atlantic white cedar. Credit: Greg Sanders/USFWS

The following story was originally published on the NASA website: 

You could say that the idea came to him in a cloud of smoke.

Over the summer, Mike Logan, an aerospace engineer at NASA’s Langley Research Center, put a group of students to work designing and building an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) that could one day help to snuff out fires in Virginia’s Great Dismal Swamp.

The origins of the project go back to August of 2011. A lightning strike in the swamp sparked a blaze that ended up burning for four months. At one point, wind pushed the smoke as far north as Maryland. Logan, who lives due north of the swamp in South Hampton Roads, often found his house in the path of the acrid cloud.

“After choking down a few dozen clouds worth of peat bog smoke, which I found out I’m allergic to, I thought, you know, there really ought to be a better way,” he said. Head over to the NASA website to keep reading this story >>

The controlled use of fire can remove or chew down older woody growth, periodically returning the habitat to a young stage, insuring that we keep enough young forest around so that the land supports the wildlife that need it. Fort Indiantown officials must continually use prescribed (also called controlled) fires to reduce the amount of woody fuel on the ground so that small fires don’t become big ones that jump out of the training area. This photo is from a prescribed burn in March 2011. Credit: Pennsylvania National Guard/Tom Cherry (from Flickr Commons)

“Training-scape” helps soldiers, wildlife

This regal fritillary is at Fort Indiantown Gap in central Pennsylvania, one of very few places this butterfly can be found outside of the Great Plains region. Conservationists burn and scatter plant seeds to replenish native grasslands with food plants fritillaries need during different stages of their life cycle. Next to those grasslands lie literally thousands of acres of young forest. Credit: Pennsylvania National Guard/Tom Cherry (from Flickr Commons)

This rare regal fritillary is at Fort Indiantown Gap in central Pennsylvania, one of very few places this butterfly can be found outside of the Great Plains region. Conservationists burn and scatter plant seeds to replenish native grasslands with food plants fritillaries need during different stages of their life cycle. Next to those grasslands lie literally thousands of acres of young forest. Credit: Pennsylvania National Guard/Tom Cherry (from Flickr Commons)

This post comes to us from our partner site, www.youngforest.org, a resource dedicated to keeping young forest on our landscape. Let’s grow wildlife habitat together! Our agency is a partner for this specific Pennsylvania project, and one of our volunteers, Dave Putnam, has dedicated many efforts to it.

It sounds like a contradiction in terms: An active military base that’s a wildlife hotspot. But at Fort Indiantown Gap in central Pennsylvania (known simply as “the Gap”), staff conservationists are shaping a landscape for military training while simultaneously making and maintaining thousands of acres of wildlife habitat, including native grasslands and young forest, rare and getting rarer in the Northeast where mature forest increasingly dominates the land.

“Fort Indiantown Gap is one of the most biodiverse places I’ve ever been,” reports Forest Program Manager Shannon Henry, “and that’s because we proactively manage it.”

Nature enthusiasts from across the U.S. visit the Pennsylvania National Guard post to see the regal fritillary. Credit: Pennsylvania National Guard/Tom Cherry (from Flickr Commons)

Nature enthusiasts from across the U.S. visit the Pennsylvania National Guard post to see the regal fritillary. Credit: Pennsylvania National Guard/Tom Cherry (from Flickr Commons)

Henry works closely with Joseph Hovis, who heads the base’s Wildlife Section. On the 17,000-acre base more than 125,000 soldiers train each year. They need ranges where they can drive tanks and practice shooting weapons from rifles to cannons. Hovis’s and Henry’s job is to keep that “training-scape” functioning through prescribed burning, timber harvests, and brush-cutting.

“We keep the vegetation short – less than 10 feet on a shooting range, for example,” says Hovis. “Each year we apply fire to 3,000 to 5,000 acres and harvest timber on another 200 to 300 acres.”

Those activities yield the kind of periodic disturbances that once were common – disturbances that set back vegetative growth and give rise to patches of young forest and grassland that move around on the landscape. At the Gap, such ephemeral habitats provide food and cover for a broad range of creatures including woodcock, bobwhite quail, catbirds, towhees, brown thrashers, blue grosbeaks, box turtles, wood turtles, spotted turtles, smooth greensnakes, timber rattlesnakes – the list goes on and on.

Read the rest of this story at www.youngforest.org!

The controlled use of fire can remove or chew down older woody growth, periodically returning the habitat to a young stage, insuring that we keep enough young forest around so that the land supports the wildlife that need it. Fort Indiantown officials must continually use prescribed (also called  controlled) fires to reduce the amount of woody fuel on the ground so that small fires don’t become big ones that jump out of the training area. This photo is from a prescribed burn in March 2011. Credit: Pennsylvania National Guard/Tom Cherry (from Flickr Commons)

The controlled use of fire can remove or chew down older woody growth, periodically returning the habitat to a young stage, insuring that we keep enough young forest around so that the land supports the wildlife that need it. Fort Indiantown officials must continually use prescribed (also called controlled) fires to reduce the amount of woody fuel on the ground so that small fires don’t become big ones that jump out of the training area. This photo is from a prescribed burn in March 2011. Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ted Nichols/Released to Pennsylvania National Guard (from Flickr Commons)