Barksdale fights fire with fire

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class William Pugh
  • 2nd Bomb Wing public Affairs

Since January, Barksdale has been conducting prescribed burns to control invasive vegetation and preserve natural wildlife.

“One of the biggest misconceptions is that we're out there destroying the wildlife habitat,” said Matthew Stroupe, 2nd Civil Engineer Squadron natural resources manager. “We're actually out there trying to help it, and we're taking into account the wildlife when we're planning these burns.”
Every year, natural resource experts identify what sections of Barksdale are due for a prescribed burn.

Barksdale contains patches of endangered environments known as coastal prairies. These areas are protected and restored by wildlife conservation specialists.

The prescribed burns drive back hardwood vegetation that encroaches upon these habitats, making them part of the conservation efforts being conducted to protect these rare ecosystems.

“The tree species here are more fire adaptive than most other vegetation,” said Kevin Grodi, Barksdale wildland support module lead. “So we go in and get rid of the undesirable vegetation. It also makes the area nicer for recreational activities like hiking, hunting, and camping.”

Grodi leads a fire crew from the Air Force Wildland Fire Center headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas. His team is responsible for fire duties on multiple bases throughout the year.

The team manages the large eastern reservation by burning different sections every year. This minimizes the natural after-effects of prescribed burning, and gives the fire team a reasonable time window to get everything done.

“There are years where we burn 3,000 acres, and then there's years where we burn 500 acres,” said Stroupe. “We can have a very wet year or a very dry year. It’s completely up to the weather.”

Fire teams burn in alternating sections to limit where a fire can go. When they set an area ablaze, the fire will eventually run out of fuel when it reaches a previously burned area.

Burning in sections also allows displaced wildlife to migrate over to a part of the base not due for burning that season. If burning was conducted on a larger scale, many animals would have to leave the area entirely.

Barksdale’s fire teams administer burns from January through March to allow natural growth and because these months are relatively dry compared to Louisiana’s generally humid climate.

“You can't burn within two or three days of a rain because the fuels are wet,” said Stroupe. “There are certain conditions that must be adhered to.”

Burn teams rely on weather forecasts to ensure a prescribed burn goes smoothly. Wind is another major factor in determining good conditions for a burn.

Light winds or no wind at all leads to smoke settling and can cause problems in the local area. Too much wind creates dangerous fires that are hard to subdue.

“This year, we've had forecasts that said the wind was going to continue to blow all night long, and it didn't,” said Stroupe. “The smoke is able to spread out should these conditions occur. In this case, it would be advised that people with breathing problems such as asthma should limit their outdoor activity during the early morning.”

As this year’s burn season comes to a close, the 2nd CES natural resources team and the fire crew will meet to plan next year's burn season.

“We burned about 400 more acres this year than what we accomplished last year,” said Grodi. “We've had a lot of cooperating partnerships to make this burn happen, and we appreciate all of the work we've done this year with all our crews and visitors.”

For more information on the prescribed burns, dates and locations please go to for a real-time burn heatmap provided by the Interagency Wildland Fire Air Quality Response Program.