Base officials conduct prescribed burn at Huffman Prairie

  • Published
  • By Zion Dillahunt
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Coming off one of the warmest winters in Ohio history, it was only natural to continue to raise temperatures here as the 88th Civil Engineer Group completed a prescribed burn at Huffman Prairie on March 13.

Prescribed burns are carried out to create healthy ecological impacts.

“Huffman Prairie is a tall-grass prairie, which are fire-dependent ecosystems,” said Darryn Warner, manager of 88 CEG’s Natural Resources and Wildland Fire programs at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. “A periodic fire stimulates growth, recycles nutrients back to the soil and removes harmful substances within the field.”

The burn lasted from 11 a.m. to approximately 4 p.m. There were three different burn sites: Huffman Prairie, the airfield and Haddix Road.

Several agencies collaborated with 88 CEG to successfully conduct the burn, including the Air Force Wildland Fire Branch from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey; 788th Civil Engineer Squadron, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Fire Department, 88th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron’s Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight and Five Rivers MetroParks.

“Not only is this a time to better the environment, but it’s a wonderful training opportunity for my team,” said Jeff Kitzmiller, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base fire chief. “We are certified in wildland firefighting, but we can’t do it every day, so this keeps us sharp.”

Officials from the Natural Resources Program reported that they were able to burn about 95 acres altogether.

“The airfield unit was burned to remove the thatch in the vegetation layer, which provides habitat for moles and voles and, in turn, attracts raptors,” Warner said. “Raptors are a hazard for our aircraft. This was the first time the airfield was burned, and we hope to continue utilizing prescribed fire as a management tool in the future to aid in reducing the environmental threats.”

During a controlled burn, officials say it’s vital for all operations to run successfully to avoid damage to historic grounds. Huffman Prairie is connected to Huffman Prairie Flying Field, where the Wright brothers revolutionized flight.

“For me, I am very honored to be a part of this, as I get to positively impact my community while operating on such legendary ground,” Warner said.

The prescribed burns are routine procedures typically held once a year and they require very suitable weather conditions, sufficient resources and personnel availability, he added.