PATTON, TOWNSHIP, CENTRE COUNTY - Better late than never right?
That is what Pennsylvania Game Commission officials are saying after a prescribed burn in Centre county finally happened Thursday after a year long wait.
This burn was the first of a dozen burns that will happen at Scotia Barrens Game Lands #176 throughout the next four years. Game Commission Staff jumped at the opportunity to take advantage of these amazing temperatures and dry days.
Why the fire? First it is overdue, and secondly; the trees and animals at Scotia need the flames to thrive. Thursday's burn at Scotia lasted less than four hours, but you should not think that made it an easy proposition.
"It's been quite a huge undertaking simply because it's close to the urban interface, it's in a very large centrally located area that there's a lot of public use of the gamelands," Bill Capouillez, Wildlife Habitat Management Director with the PA Game Commission, said.
Why ignore Smokey the Bear's cardinal rule? For several reasons.
"The pitch pine in particular needs to have a heat source in order for the seed to actually open up off of the cone," Capouillez said.
Also the 90 acres burned had a collection of dense wooden fuel on the forest floor. An accidental spark without the right precautions could have been deadly. Also, after a year of waiting, Penn State Geography students also got in on the action.
"I also do a lot of work in the Western U.S. on fire ,which is a lot less convenient obviously, so I think it's a great opportunity on getting students involved and being able to go out and directly observe and collect information right as the event's going on," Alan Taylor, a Geography Professor at PSU, said.
The students could get even more data in the next two months. The Game Commission said they are hoping to get two more burns in by summer.
The 90 acres that were bruned will reopen on Friday, but staffers said you might wait to wait for a good soaking rain before taking trek through Scotia. The soot and charred debris will get your clothes awfully dirty.