JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. —
Firefighters with the 87th Civil Engineer Squadron have been working throughout the early spring season to clear the ranges at Joint Base MDL of flammable debris.
The prescribed burns play an essential role in clearing away dry underbrush, which prevents large wildfires from happening during the live-fire training that goes on year-round.
“We reduce hazardous fuels in our training areas to stop any catastrophic risk of wildfire near the installation,” said Mark Stevenson, 87th CES natural resource biological scientist. “By taking out some of the fuel, the fires will be smaller and more easily controlled.”
Prior to the burn, planning and preparation are required. The firefighters gear up and refuel torches that emit a stream of fire as if they were small flamethrowers. After getting the go-ahead from the environmental scientists, the firefighters ignite the forest floor in a straight line, north to south or east to west, and let the fire and wind do the work. At the same time, a team patrols the burn and makes sure the firefighters with the torches are safe.
“A lot of it is all weather dependent and our biggest contributing factor is the wind,” said Stevenson. “We determine our wind direction and where we want our smoke to go. There is science behind it. We’re not just out here lighting anything we want to light.”
The burns require a team of diligent firefighters and scientists to be on high alert and ensure the fire is contained within the designated area and prevent any damage to infrastructure on the ranges using a vehicle equipped with a fire hose.
“The long hours and high effort that goes into the burn can be challenging,” said Airman 1st Class Lucas Loiacono, 87th CES firefighter. “I personally enjoy overcoming these challenges.”
The controlled burns are a necessity to help keep the community safe and are just one of the many ways the firefighters here serve both Joint Base MDL and the people of New Jersey.