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News from the Hilltop

Nov. 18, 2008

Birmingham-Southern biology professor and students to witness and study Wildland Fire Plan exercise at Oak Mountain State Park

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. —Birmingham-Southern College Associate Professor of Biology Scot Duncan and 16 students in his Biology 411 General Ecology class will be on site during a prescribed burn at Oak Mountain State Park Nov. 20. Duncan and the BSC biology students will witness the prescribed forest fire to further study how the forest will respond to the re-introduction of fire.

The planned burn is the start of an ecological restoration project designed to help restore the health of the longleaf pine forest, which is a type of forest that depends on periodic fire for its survival. According to Duncan, this area of forest has not been burned in many decades, and the health of the longleaf pine forest has been in decline.

BSC students, who have studied the forest for the past month, have measured fuel loads, soil conditions and vegetation. They are conducting experiments to see if the fire can be manipulated to better benefit the longleaf pine forest. In the week following the burn, students will return to the site to examine the results of the fire.

The dual purpose of the training exercise, based on a current Wildland Fire Plan, is to create a realistic scenario based on a prescribed fire within a 60-120 acre mountain longleaf zone. It is a cooperative endeavor between the Alabama State Parks Division, the Alabama Forestry Commission, the cities of Chelsea and Pelham and the North Shelby Fire Departments, Shelby County EMA, and adjacent landowners/neighborhoods. The exercise will also include participation from the Wildland Fire Academy and a class of fire professionals taking a course sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Forest Service in Alabama.

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