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FVTC wildland fire program students study controlled burn as fire risk remains “high”

Students in the FVTC wildland fire program are using fire to eliminate some invasive species.
Published: May. 17, 2022 at 4:38 PM CDT
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GRAND CHUTE, Wis. (WBAY) - The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources says the fire danger across Wisconsin is starting to go down, but most of our counties are still listed as a “high” risk. While the ground is greening up, the danger is not gone just yet.

There was a brush fire on the Fox Valley Technical College campus Tuesday, but it was intentionally set. Students in the wildland fire program are using the fire to eliminate some invasive species.

“We’re looking at restoring these prairies, getting them back to a better health. We’ve got some invasive species like teasel, we’ve got some brush in our prairie that we’re trying to control, so it’s really good that it’s green out here. We’d like a little bit more intensity, but it’s very easy to control when we have lighter winds, our humidities aren’t as low as they’ve been in the past week and our temperatures have recovered,” said Wildland Fire instructor Jon Kellerman.

But the fire isn’t just about restoring the property. It’s a learning tool, too. According to student Heather Gross, students are learning “fire behavior, the way it acts, how to burn with my fellow students, colleagues.”

There was a brush fire on the Fox Valley Technical College campus Tuesday, but it was intentionally set.

The students, as a team, set the fire and watched it burn. They’re studying how the different materials burn -- and the impact the wind has on the fire.

“One of the easiest ways to understand fire behavior initially is to do it with a prescribed fire where we know we can control it and keep it at a more safe medium. With wildfire, of course, you don’t have that degree of control over it -- that’s why it’s a wildfire -- but, once you understand fire behavior doing prescribed fire it’s easier to transfer knowledge over to actual wildfire suppression,” adds student Alan Hartranft.

It was a controlled burn, and because of conditions, like green grass and especially low winds, it was a slow burn. There were some areas, where dry brush accumulated, that burned faster and hotter -- similar to how a brush fire would burn in the wild. Exercises like this are good practice for when these students are called upon in the field.

“That’s really what the goal is with fire suppression in Wisconsin is keep it small, don’t let it grow, don’t let it get big. And that’s what we train our students on. We attack it and fight fire aggressively. That’s what they’re kind of doing here. It’s a little bit slower because it’s really green and it’s in a more controlled setting,” adds Jon Kellerman.

FVTC students get firsthand experience fighting wildfires

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