FORT MCCOY, Wis. (WLAX/WEAU) – This past April, a wildfire burned through 3,000 acres near Fort McCoy. Prescribed burns were held at the base on April 11th and 12th. And while the Department of Defense says the April 12th burn did not cause the fire. It could not be determined if the burn on the 11th played a role.
With another prescribed burn taking place at Fort McCoy today. First News at Nine’s Dashal Mentzel shares how officials are working to make burns safer.
Fort McCoy is conducting a prescribed burn to create space for practicing paratroopers and endangered species. National Resource Branch Chief, Tim Wilder, explains, “The burns are going to help maintain this area as a prairie for a couple of reasons, so that it is an extension of the Badger drop zone. It allows more drop time for the soldiers when they’re either dropping equipment or parachuting out. On the natural resources side of the house, we’ve got several rare butterflies on the installation. They’re already found out in that badger drop zone. We’re trying to expand their habitat.”
This is the second prescribed burn since the fire on April 12th that burned 3,000 acres of land. Fort McCoy Garrison Commander, Colonel Stephen Messenger, says while an investigation says their prescribed burn had nothing to do with the massive fire, they are still trying to find ways to make the burns safer, “We had independent investigators from the Department of Defense come out and look at our whole process and what they found was that we were in compliance with state and federal regulations, and we were even going above and beyond a lot of the procedures that we need to conduct these prescribed burns. However, this is an evolving process and we continuously relook what we’ve done. So, as we look through the whole process, a complete outside investigation, we hardened out our procedures even more and we looked at our firebreaks to enhance them. We looked at our decision-making criteria and we looked at the risk assessment so that we could conduct it even safer.”
Fort McCoy has been working with citizens who were affected by the fire in the town of Grant. Col. Messenger says, “We met right after the fire and then we again went right after the investigation was complete. I met with both the board and the residents that were affected, and we made sure that they understood the claims process, how to file a claim through the United States Army Claims Service. And then our installation legal office provides support so that they can file those appropriately.”
The current prescribed burn is planned to cover 28 acres of land.
Some of the endangered species that Fort McCoy plans to help with the burns includes the Regal Fritillary Butterfly, Skipper Butterfly, and the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee.