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Controlled fire set to 80 acres of Pine Barrens in Ridge as prevention measure

New York State DEC personnel, as well as

New York State DEC personnel, as well as DEC volunteers and students of the New York Wildfire and Incident Wildfire Academy, conduct a "Prescribed Fire," or controlled burn, on New York State-owned Pine Barrens land in Ridge. The Pine Barrens is a fire-dependent ecosystem, meaning it must burn periodically to regenerate. (April 10, 2013) Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

A controlled fire was set on 80 acres in the Pine Barrens Wednesday, to prevent future brush fires and to aid wildlife habitats, according to John Pavacic, executive director of the Pine Barrens Commission.

The fire was scheduled to take advantage of the sunny day and lack of strong winds, Pavacic said.

“We’re in prime time right now for wildfires because the vegetation hasn’t greened up yet,” he said. “The ground is getting a lot of sunshine and that heats it up and dries up the dead leaves and natural matter that’s lying around.”

The fire was set on state Department of Environmental Conservation land in Ridge, located east of Rocky Point Road, south of Whiskey Road, north of Route 25 and west of William Floyd Parkway.

By burning the branches and leaves on the ground, the controlled burn helps limit the spread and scope of future wildfires.

A year ago, firefighters battled a massive brush fire that covered 1,100 acres in a southern part of the Pine Barrens near Manorville.

The controlled burn also helps control the encroachment of woodland on grass fields, Pavacic said.

“Grasslands are an increasingly rare habitat for certain types of wildlife, especially certain types of birds. Unless they’re actively managed they’ll convert to woodland and you’ll lose that habitat,” he said.

Future controlled burns are planned for the Pine Barrens region, but are very weather-dependent, he added.

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