Prairie burn lights up Nachusa’s grassland

Line boss Molly Duncan keeps an eye on one end of the burn at Nachusa Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023.

A Nachusa fire crew hit a 24-acre area of the grassland Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023, for a prescribed burn on the prairie habitat. Fire has long been an important and natural part of the prairie. Clearing off the ground cover stimulates new growth and some plants rely on fire to open seed pods. A crew of 10 worked to provide breaks, put down a water line and ignite the grasses so the burn reacts in their planned direction.

“Wind and dry air is what determines whether we can have a burn,” said Nachusa Director Bill Kleiman.

A light south wind pushed the fire and smoke north so crews made plans for where to put the fire breaks and warnings for motorists who might be traveling the area. The area burned was roughly an “L” shape on Carthage Road so two separate groups started the process on either side so the fire met in the middle.

“If the side upwind doesn’t have enough of a fire break,” Kleiman said, “it can jump it and burn the other side.”

Alex Paschal

Alex T. Paschal

Photojournalist/columnist for Sauk Valley Media