A Blaze Set for a Meadow's Health

The fire in the 20-acre swath of land was intended to reduce invasive plant species, remove old plants and promote a healthy meadow ecosystem.
The fire in the 20-acre swath of land was intended to reduce invasive plant species, remove old plants and promote a healthy meadow ecosystem. (Fairfax County Park Authority)

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

County parks officials recently set fire to a 20-acre meadow in the Centreville area as part of an effort to create a more diverse field of native grasses and wildflowers.

The controlled, or prescribed, burn was Feb. 8 in Sully Woodlands on the west side of Pleasant Valley Road. The low-burning blaze, which was set in winter because grasses and woody plants are dry, was managed by firefighters from stations 16 and 17 in Clifton and Centreville, respectively.

The fire was intended to reduce invasive plant species, remove heavy duff, or old plants, and promote a healthy native meadow. Old plants inhibit new growth and are a wildfire risk, according to the Park Authority. Burning promotes plant health and seed germination.

"This is all part of the ongoing resource management program aimed at preserving and enhancing healthy meadow complexes on parkland," Charles Smith, a resource protection naturalist, said in a news release.

Officials said that such fires do not harm birds and other animals because animals leave when humans and equipment enter an area. Turtles, snakes and other cold-blooded animals are sleeping below ground, officials said, and voles and mice stay low and move away.

The meadow will be black and gray until spring approaches and rain helps green up the fields with new plants, officials said.

For more information, visit http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/resources/resources-nrp.htm .

-- STEPHEN C. FEHR


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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