Park strikes fire to control grass, brush|[3/3/06]

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 3, 2006

Usually, park officials are wary to prevent brush fires. Occasionally, though, as with Vicksburg National Military Park on Thursday, good burns are timely.

National Park Service workers oversaw controlled fires at four sites covering about 10 acres in the park: Fort Hill, Graveyard Road, Logue’s Meadow and Thayer’s Approach, said Rick Martin, chief of operations for the park. The burning is part of an annual spring effort to keep down grass and brush in hard-to-reach areas and prevent trees – now covering many areas of the park, but not a part of the original landscape of the battlefield – from getting very far.

&#8220There are areas in the park we’re unable to mow, but we want to control the growth on them,” said Martin, who added that a mower had turned over before on Graveyard Road. &#8220We don’t want trees to grow up in those areas, and it’ll stop that.”

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The burning was managed by Dan Mapstone, burn manager of the Natchez Trace Parkway, which is also operated by the National Park Service.

Controlled burns are typically done in the spring because the vegetation is just beginning to grow back, Martin said. Flames are generally kept low, but can pick up, as they did on Fort Hill Thursday.

The Vicksburg Fire Department was on hand in case the flames blew out of control.

Roads and other fire breaks also contribute to keeping the flames under wrap, and potential problems in the path are removed, Martin said.

&#8220It can be too dry and go off on you,” he said. &#8220But because of the natural fire breaks, the likelihood of those fires getting out is minimal.”