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(VIDEO) Beneficial burn: Chippewa National Forest conducts prescribed burns on Oak Point

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Smoke plumes from a prescribed burn on Oak Point on Wednesday in Chippewa National Forest in Cass Lake. The controlled burn covered 225 acres and was located six miles north of Walker and three miles east of Highway 371. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)2 / 8
The left side of this section of Oak Point Recreation Trail was untouched by the prescribed burn while the right side was still emitting smoke at about noon Wednesday in Cass Lake. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)3 / 8
Portions of Chippewa National Forest where the controlled burn was held were visible from Oak Point Road Northwest. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)4 / 8
Small amounts of smoke could be seen from Oak Point Recreation Trail about noon Wednesday in Chippewa National Forest. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)5 / 8
Smoke plumes from a prescribed burn on Oak Point on Wednesday in Chippewa National Forest in Cass Lake. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)6 / 8
Smoke from the prescribed burn could be seen from the Walker City Dock on Wednesday. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)7 / 8
Portions of Chippewa National Forest where the controlled burn was held were visible from Oak Point Road Northwest. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)8 / 8

CASS LAKE -- Smoke plumes could be seen from long distances Wednesday as the Chippewa National Forest conducted prescribed burns on Oak Point on Leech Lake.

It was the third and final controlled burn for the area, which covered about 470 acres, with about 225 acres of the burn occurring Wednesday.

“The reason we’re burning is to reduce hazardous fuels,” said Mike Rice, zone fire management officer, who was in the area of the fire. “In the event that we did have a wildfire out here it would be easier for us to control.”

Residents and landowners on Oak Point received a letter from the Forest Service in early May alerting them to the burns.

According to the letter, the burns only consume fuels on the forest floor and leave scorch marks on some trees. Shrubs, forbs and grasses quickly green-up following the burn, but some trees will die, which is what the Forest Service wants.

The burns are also beneficial to wildlife in the area. Since they are slow-moving surface fires, animals have plenty of time to move and seek refuge from the fire, which will improve their habitat, according to the Forest Service.

“In addition we’re trying to promote some of the oak and pine characteristics that are out here on Oak Point and prescribed fire is one of the management tools that we do that with,” Rice said.

If a prescribed burn were to get out of control, which the Forest Service said is unlikely in their letter, numerous other contingency resources are identified beforehand to assist if needed, which includes aircraft.

Jillian Gandsey

Jillian Gandsey is the Multimedia Editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. She is an Iron Range native and a 2013 graduate of Bemidji State University. Follow Jillian on Twitter and Instagram @jilliangandsey. Contact her at 218-333-9786, 218-996-1216 or at jgandsey@bemidjipioneer.com. 

(218) 333-9786
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