This coming Wednesday marks the beginning of controlled burn season, when trained staff and volunteers start a series of intentional fires in Ann Arbor parks to enrich the soil and allow fire-resistant plants to grow. Natural Area Preservation staff, who lead the controlled burn effort, also conducted burns for a few weeks in the fall of 2018.

The season lasts for the majority of spring and will end on Friday, May 24. During this time, NAP staff and volunteers will conduct burns on weekdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and post signs warning residents to stay clear of the area.

The Michigan United Conservation Clubs and Private Land Partnerships, organizations dedicated to protecting Michigan’s natural wildlife and ecosystem, said controlled burning is an underutilized resource due to fear about the danger of starting fires. When led by a team of trained staff, the organizations said controlled burning is actually safe for nearby residents and animals and does not create enough smoke to pose any significant health risks if carried out correctly.

According to a fact sheet written by the MUCC and PLP, NAP staff wear pre-approved protective clothing and contact local fire departments before carrying out the burns to ensure the safety of nearby communities.

“For both safety and legal reasons, certain groups should be notified before a burn to prevent unnecessary concerns and danger,” it says. “Notifying neighbors, fire departments, and local law enforcement officials should be part of the prescribed burning process.”

The burns also help eliminate old plant growth and prevent against destructive wildfires. The success of the burn depends on weather conditions, wind strength and ground moisture of the park. The NAP team has permits to carry out burns in more than 25 parks in the Ann Arbor area to revitalize the soil and contribute to the overall health of the parks’ wildlife.

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