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Burn, Baby, Burn!
The Role of Fire in Pine Bush Preservation

Scroll down to see all of the links to articles


Fire Management in the Pine Bush, Jan./Feb. 91

Man-Made Pine Bush?? Harvey Alexander Tells All ,Jan./Feb. 92

Recent News-Controlled Burnings in Pine Bush a Success, Times Union, Nov. 13, 1991

Fire? What Fire? Pine Bush Better Than Ever - July/Aug 99

The Pine Bush is a fire dis-climax community. It must burn to survive. The dominant species, the pitch pine tree, is adapted to fire and cannot reproduce without it. Currently, the Pine Bush is the only place in New York State that one (well, scientists or people involved with Pine Bush preservation) can get a permit to set a fire.

I know that sometimes the mention of controlled burns makes the residents of the Pine Bush a bit ansy. I can sympathize, I would not be delighted if someone said they were going to set a fire near my house. However, the Pine Bush will burn, whether people set controlled burns, or a wildfire starts by natural or other causes. I have seen both - a controlled burn and a natural wildfire. Personally, I would take the controlled burn any day. It was about as boring an event as I can remember. Flames were not even visible, the ground just turned black at a glacially slow pace. There seemed to be a million fire men hanging around, bored to tears. The controlled burn was strictly controlled; there was absolutely no danger to any people or any property. Also, controlled burns are not allowed within 75 feet of any structures or private property.

On the other hand, I saw a natural wildfire in 1980. I will never forget my terror. My friend, John Wolcott, talked me into driving him out to the Pine Bush so he could take pictures of the event. All of the main roads to the Pine Bush were closed to traffic because of the smoke. Of course, John knows all of the back roads, and we managed to drive in pretty close to the City Preserve. And then John wanted to walk into the Preserve to get photos. So, against my better judgement, we walked into the City Preserve. At that point, the fire was north of us and the wind was blowing the thick, smothering smoke north away from us. John snapped away, while I anxiously watched the wind direction (people die in fires of smoke inhalation long before the fire arrives). As the wind began to change, I suggested that we leave. But, there seemed to be one more picture. And then we found a crazy high school student taking pictures too! We couldn't leave him, so I kept trying to persuade everyone to leave. Eventually, just ahead of the deadly smoke, we ran out.

No, thank you, I will take a controlled burn any day. Wildfires start when there is a build up of burnable material. Controlled burns can eliminate this build up of combustible organic material before it becomes dangerous. Ed.

This page last modified January 12, 2008
Contact Save the Pine Bush at pinebush@aol.com.