Prescribed Burns to Take Place in Columbia Heights

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Prescribed Burns to Take Place in Columbia Heights

Today, April 26, the City of Columbia Heights will be conducting several prescribed burns to maintain and improve the quality of the native plantings at Huset Park, Prestemon Park, the Public Safety Building, and Ramsdell Park. The last prescribed burn in Columbia Heights was in 2013.

These burns will be supervised by persons experienced in the application of prescribed fire and conducted with the permission of the Columbia Heights Fire Department and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Necessary public officials will be notified immediately prior to starting the burns and following completion.

The appropriate equipment, proven techniques, and management of controlled burns will be utilized to minimize any inconvenience. Smoke created by the prescribed burns will be managed so that it rises away from homes, roads, and other sensitive areas. The area that turns black after the burn will come back green and lush during the upcoming growing season. The City sincerely hopes that you will appreciate this diverse natural plant community as it grows and flowers with renewed vigor.

If you should have additional questions or concerns, please contact the City of Columbia Heights at 763-706-3709. Thank you in advance for your cooperation and understanding.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Application of Prescribed Fire

  • Why is the City planning prescribed fires?

Prairies like this were native to the Twin Cities area of Minnesota when the area was settled over 100 years ago. Occasional fires are necessary to maintain the health of the prairie plantings. 

Almost all the plant communities native to Minnesota are adapted to periodic fire.  For some communities such as prairies and oak savannas, fire is essential to maintaining the health of the plant community.  When the original prairie vegetation covered much of the Midwest, fires were started by lightning, and more commonly by Native Americans.

  • How does fire help the natural vegetation?

Fire helps to:

  • recycle the nutrients stored in dead plant stems and leaves.
  • stimulate growth of new shoots on existing plants. 
  • increase flowering.
  • stimulate germination of prairie seeds in the soil.
  • control undesirable plants.
  • improve wildlife habitat. 
  • Will the fire harm wildlife?

Almost all wildlife can either move from the site or find areas such as burrows to hide from the fire.  It is true that in rare instances an animal is overrun by fire before it can find safe haven: this is the rare exception rather than the rule.  Biologists plan the timing and type of fires to minimize the chance of harming wildlife, or their nests.  For the long-term, fire benefits animals by maintaining or improving the overall wildlife habitat.  On the day of the burn, there will be a lot of human activity in the prairie.  This will encourage animals to leave temporarily and find a hiding place in adjacent habitats.

  • Are there alternatives to using fire?

There are some alternatives to the application of prescribed fire.  The two most used practices are mowing and the application of herbicides. Mowing achieves some results like fire but may disturb the soil which can allow weeds to establish. Herbicide application could be used to spot control some weeds, but this does not provide the benefits that prescribed fire does over the whole area of the planting. Also, these alternatives are generally more expensive on a per-area basis.

  • How will smoke from the fire be managed?

When getting ready for the burn, biologists create a plan that outlines what conditions must be present to prevent smoke from lingering in areas. Through proper planning and selection of wind direction, smoke can be managed so that it rises away from homes, roads, and other sensitive areas.

  • I’ve seen stories about wildfires in the news, will this fire be out of control?

No, prescribed fires are planned by experienced professional staff who identify ahead of time the conditions necessary to safely conduct a prescribed fire. These include environmental factors such as air temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction. Other important aspects of planning include the number of people and types of equipment that will be on-hand at the burn, as well as what order the events will take place in.

  • What will we see after the burn is completed?  How fast will the area green-up again?

Immediately after the burn, the ground will be black. Within five to ten days, you should see new plant growth. Green-up will occur very quickly.