After months of planning the prescribed burn at Fontenelle Forest is on for today (Monday, February 29th) as long as weather conditions remain steady according to Bellevue Fire Department and Forest Officials. The current plan is to start with the Hawthorn unit that was talked about at the town hall meetings sometime after 10am this morning. This area encompasses about 18 acres of the Forest. If the initial burn is successful and conditions remain favorable two smaller units; one inside the third loop of the Boardwalk and the other inside the Ridge Trail, may also be burned today.
Fontenelle Forest officials say that these burns are being done to clear away overgrown parts of the forest with the hope of restoring and enhancing native species in the prairie. Another benefit of these controlled burns is that they remove the built up fuel for more dangers fires. The last fire in the forest two years ago was reported to have started from a cigarette. It caused great concern with no roads or water access for fire fighters. This fire served as a learning experience to remove the vegetative fuel when conditions are right which will reduce the greater danger of out of control fires on windy and unprepared occasions.
Forest officials are well trained in prescribed fire and wildland firefighting and have been conducting these burns up at Neale Woods for over a decade. Traditionally Oak woodland prescribed fires such as these move slowly and have relatively short flame lengths. Residents may notice a small amount of smoke during the burn, but Fontenelle Forest officials stress this is normal. City of Bellevue Officials have been well briefed about this process and Assistant Fire Chief Steve Betts stressed that Bellevue Fire Department crews will monitor the blaze throughout the process.