Thursday, March 24 the Fishers Island Fire Department volunteers held their drill on the west
end and participated in a controlled burn of the Race, Airport and Parade Ground habitats in
coordination with the Fishers Island Conservancy.
The concerted effort to reclaim our native grasslands from invasive plants began in October 2010.
That was when the Fishers Island Ferry District, which oversees the property for the Town of Southold,
signed onto the Conservancy's proposal and the burn plan was put into practice. What happens if we
do not use fire as a management tool? Two undesirable things will occur. First, we will see more and
more vegetation building up as potential fuel for uncontrolled fires. Second, Fishers Island's natural
grasses, shrubs and trees are being overtaken by invasive vines and shrubs, mostly of Asian origin.
The Conservancy is committed to preserving the natural flora on Fishers and pushing back the invasives.
In the grasslands, fire is the best management tool we have.
"Burn Boss" Donnie Beck is a member of the Fishers Island Fire Department and the Fishers Island
Conservancy Habitat Committee. He also serves on the Henry L. Ferguson Museum's Land Trust Committee. He has conducted controlled burns at the Fishers Island Club for the last 23 years. And, over the last few years, he has helped both the Conservancy and Museum boards create prescribed burn plans and apply for permits. Here Donny explains the burn process:
In general, both the Museum and Conservancy try to divide their properties in thirds and only burn one section each year. This ensures the fire has enough fuel to burn effectively and most importantly, it leaves habitat for wildlife on the majority of each property.
The burn itself is done the same way each time. Both the Conservancy and Museum have trail systems in place that separate the plots and act as fire breaks. The closely mown trails will not burn and help control the fires. We always start by back-burning on the downwind side of the plot and then work slowly up the perimeters to provide a buffer. The fires are started with either a propane torch or with outdated flares provided by the fire department. In all cases, crews monitor the perimeter of the burn and are prepared to extinguish any potential jump across the trails with water and tampers. Once a sufficient buffer is established we start dissecting the remaining plot by burning small sections across the middle allowing the fire to burn downwind until it extinguishes due to lack of fuel which has already been burned by the slow back burn.
Participating Fire Department Members:
- Chris Dollar
- Kathy Dollar
- John Doucette
- Chris Edwards
- Greg Thibodeau
- Dirk Harris
- Nate Malinowski
- Ace Ahrens
- Donnie Beck
- Alex Kardziyak
- John Kucsera
- Robert Rogers
- David Burnham
- George Horning
- Robert Brooks
- Tawnya Eastman
- Jess Hall
- Michael Imbriglio
- John Bergquist
- Jeff Edwards
- Bruce Hubert
- Joe Brock