Thursday, March 17, 2005

Smoky Hills

The burning has started. As I drive my route, I can look just about any direction and see smoke. There are many native grass pastures in our area and unless they have been heavily grazed through the winter, most are burned between now and the middle of April. It is a beautiful sight to drive I 70 through the Flint Hills at night and see the meandering lines of fire moving over the rolling hills.

Fire is a powerful force. We have native grass pastures we burn each year. They are small acreages but it is still a time of concern. We live over 20 miles from the high rise KU dorms, but it was students from the top rooms that called 911 one year. They thought it was a wild fire according to the police. Another year a motorist at least ten miles away called the fire department. The township fire truck arrived with sirens, volunteers and water truck. Even though our county does not require a burn permit, we have learned to call everyone when we plan to burn.

It is interesting to watch the process of starting the fires. Dan soaks an old pair of jeans in diesel fuel, hooks them with a wire to the back of an ATV, lights the jeans and takes off across the pasture. There is the “line of fire.” Of course we always back burn into the wind near our pine trees and buildings that are too close to the dry grass. We start the fire close to the trees and let it burn away from the trees and into the wind. Then when you start the entire pasture, it can burn with the wind and will not blow fire into the trees.

Before the Great Plains were settled and broken there were huge expanses of grass that burned often started by lightening. I cannot imagine how it would feel to be out on those plains with a family in a wooden wagon, all worldly possessions, with the tall native grasses all around and see smoke and glow in the distance.

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