Prescribed Burn

Prairies and native grasses love fire, and none like it better than our very own Minnesota Mosquito Refuge.


These guys showed up last week to do a prescribed burn.

With all kinds of cool toys.

They rode along Two Drunk Creek to get on the leeward (downwind) side of the refuge.

Before starting the burn.

It didn’t take long to get the flames going.

But mostly what they got was smoke.

20200507_104822And so did we.

20200507_105447That is my pasture behind the guy with the torch. I wanted them to burn off the thatch – but no can do.  We live in a nation of lawyers.

20200507_105459The guy on the four-wheeler is hosing down what they don’t want to burn and the guy with the torch is lighting what they do.

20200507_105535It is amazing how precise they can be.

20200507_105547Here is a better view.  They went right down the property line.

20200507_110159The question of the day: is that smoke or mosquitoes?

20200507_110518A few small patches had to be handled separately.

20200507_112427Even though the flame went into the trees, there was little sign of damage.

20200507_112659A fire crew remained on hand in case things got dicey.

20200507_112914After the main burn, you can see small peat fires.  These can burn for weeks and in some cases years.

20200509_091227They asked the neighbors to keep an eye out for peat fires, so Scooter and I patrolled Two Drunk Creek the next morning looking for wisps of smoke.

20200509_091354This is what the mosquito refuge looked like in the morning. In three weeks it will be green and fresh.

20200509_092705This is what Scooter looked like at the end of our inspection tour.  It will be more than three weeks before he is clean and fresh.

Disclaimer: No mosquitoes were harmed in the making of this blog entry.


Author: Almost Iowa

56 thoughts on “Prescribed Burn”

    1. I gave Scooter a bath today, because it was the first warm day in awhile. He was not amused. I think he is off rolling in the soot somewhere. 😦 😦 😦

  1. That was quite interesting, although from your stories I expected the refuge to have more standing water. I have to wonder though, if smoke from a proscribed burn chases mosquitoes from the refuge onto your property, are you entitled to swat them or do they still have diplomatic immunity?

    1. The Refuge is wetland. I had to warn the fire crew to be careful where they drive. It has been very dry around here and the water table is right at the surface. A few inches of rain and all you will see is water. As for the mosquitoes, when they come we hide behind our screens.

  2. You can throw in a few mosquitoes and I’ll throw in a few black flies, and we’ll both be better off. 🙂 They don’t do that anywhere near here but they do in SC in the winter, and some days it is hard to see.

  3. Really fascinating pictures and story (with your signature humor) about the controlled burn.
    And really, it probably woulda been ok if a few thousand mosquitos got singed. Burn all ya want…they’ll make more.

    1. One must be very careful not to injure a refuge Mosquito. When I first moved here, I shot one with too light a load. I used goose-shot in shotgun instead of slugs. There is nothing worse than a wounded enraged Mosquito. It took two days to hunt it down and finish it off so as to neutralize the threat, until then the neighborhood was in lock-down.

  4. Is it wrong that I laughed out loud at the picture of Scooter? But it is amazing that prairies actually need fires to maintain themselves. I think what it must have been like over a hundred years ago, when residents had to face unplanned uncontrolled prairie fires…must have been horrible. It’s good to see that they can burn them safely now! (Says she who didn’t have to deal with all that smoke!)

    1. I laughed at Scooter too.

      The ecology of our area is known as Oak Savannah. It was a wide strip of oak trees that absorbed the racing wild fires of the prairie and protected The Big Woods. Oak is highly fire resistant and the underbrush would burn but the trees would not.

        1. Here is a little story to help you understand the relationship we have with the government regarding the Mosquito Refuge.

          One day my neighbor received a 40 page document in the mail. It took him over an hour to understand what it said. Essentially, it was a threat. Apparently, after analyzing an aerial photograph, The Interior Department was under the impression that the tongue of his boat trailer was resting on the Mosquito Refuge land, the back half of the boat was on his land.

          He was ordered to move the boat or face a $380,000 fine (I sh*t you not).

          He wrote back and followed up with several calls to inform them that he had left a 50 foot buffer strip of tall grass on his land to avoid just such a conflict – that indeed the boat was well onto his property.

          That changed nothing. Those people are fanatics.

          Finally, an old retired Dept of Ag manager heard about the situation during his morning coffee social gathering at The Quickie-Mart and called him.

          “Move your freak’n boat,” he told him. “there is no talking to these people. They are all from the East or West Coast and went to expensive colleges. They don’t even speak your language.”

          He moved his boat five feet north onto his lawn and the problem went away.

          1. $380,000 does seem a trifle excessive for a first warning parking violation. But I’m still in a quandary as to why mosquitoes need a refuge in the first place…

            1. It works like this. When you enroll your land in a government set-aside program, you are paid an annual fee. Any violation of the contract results in the forfeiture of all fees paid. It can run into the millions very fast. Years ago, these programs worked with local landowners, but now the culture of the agencies have changed to one of over the top hostility for no reason.

              They are about as reasonable as the IRS.

              As for a refuge for Mosquitoes, do not all God’s creatures need a refuge…….uh and a little humorous exaggeration.

              1. Ah, so the gov’t pays you to keep land free of development? I’m all for natural spaces staying natural.
                But a refuge for mosquitoes is a bridge too far. Come July I’m ready to break out the flame thrower and torch them all!

                1. Not development. It’s marginal farmland. We are a long distance from any development. You need an act of God just to build a house out here. It’s that way because the chicken and pig farmers do not want urban retirees complaining about the smell

                  1. When we lived down south the smell of hog refuse was abundant and how shall I say…. pungent? When people started complaining the farmer would yell, “Darlin’ what you’re smelling is money. “

    1. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is staffed by fanatics. We have to fill out a voluminous report every time we slap one.

  5. For those of us not from the area (or even continent), could you please fill us in on the story behind the wonderful name Two Drunk Creek?

  6. My husband got caught in one of the burns in the Flint Hills on I35 one year. Thick smoke and fire up to the road. He was terrified and couldn’t understand why the interstate was open.

    1. I watched those fire burn one night while driving home from Texas. Amazing! There was a line of fire all the way to the horizon. Luckily no smoke. They should close the freeway.

  7. Controlled burns done right (as you’ve shown) are good things. We’re too dry and windy this year for any kind of burning. It’s looking scary again.

    Good luck with Scooter. My dog is in the ditch every day, so not much point in a bath until late October!

    1. We have been dry and windy too. The DNR restricts all burning – but we had a 1/4″ rain the night before, so they figured they could do it. It worked.

    1. Love the smell of a hearth peat fire – but not that peat. It stinks. The clothesline would be a problem – but they warned the neighborhood, all three of us, the night before.

  8. dawn dishwashing liquid helps with the smell. none of those cheap ones now..dawn blue extra. that’s the ticket.

    1. I have been waiting for a warm day to give Scooter his bath – but it is best to wait until grass grows on the Mosquito Refuge – because you know where he is going to go the minute his bath is done. 🙂

  9. Prescribed burns are common on the national forest near my home in Idaho’s mountains. Since moving here I’ve befriended many USFS employees including smokejumpers and wildland firefighters. I was initially surprised to learn that many thoroughly enjoy setting the land on fire (in a controlled way, of course), a favorite part of their job. Living 1/4 mile from the forest’s edge, I appreciate that by reducing the fuels in the forest, the chances of a wildfire raging out of control are reduced. Having had large forest fires burning nearby twice in the past few years, sending enormous billows of smoke thousands of feet up into the atmosphere (looking like a volcano eruption), I’ll take the limited smoke of prescribed burns any day.

    1. Driving out to Glacier Park last year, I was amazed at the vast forests of dead trees. Much of Yellowstone is that way. Some kind of bug. I can’t imagine the forest fires that will result.

  10. We had a prescribed burn by a private contractor on private property this weekend that went awry. Over 2200 acres burnt and 14 homes were destroyed. The county is looking to pursue criminal charges. The photos were amazingly awful. Our area being as dry and windy as it has been probably was not the time to burn. It is a mess.

  11. I really, really enjoyed this. My appreciation for the process grew after I took fire training. I still hope to participate in a burn, but circumstances (low humidity and high winds, among others) led to the burns being put off, and now everything’s on hold for obvious reasons. You’re right about the precision. We have several urban pocket prairies and a larger urban preserve that are burned, and the amount of pre-burn detail’s astonishing.

    There are large USFWS refuges to the east and the west of me, and when they light up a section on one of those, it’s quite a sight, for miles.

  12. I grew up on a peat dairy farm here in New Zealand – and you’re right, those peat fires could last for years and pop up in a new place having traveled underground.

  13. Interesting look at a controlled burn. I grew up in Ohio near an area called “the muck.” It was a huge (many, many acres) area with a deep peat base. Grew fantastic vegetables there. Hundreds of migrant workers came each year to tend and harvest the veggies. Sometimes fires would start and take weeks to burn out.

    1. Very much like our area. Just west of here is the town of Hollandale. It was incorporated after a 20,000 acre wetland was drained and turned into vegetable farms….by settlers from Holland.

      Our area is called “Moscow” because when the first explorers came by they spotted vast peat fires that filled the daytime with smoke and the night with flame. It reminded them of the burning of Moscow a few decades earlier.

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