Billowing smoke coming from Balcones Canyonlands’s prescribed burn
STAFF WRITER CONNIE SWINNEY
BURNET COUNTY — Where there’s smoke, there’s fire on RR 1431 East of Marble Falls, but for good reason, officials said.
On Jan. 4, Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service crews launched the 2018 prescribed burn season across 134 acres on the refuge’s Beard Lowlands unit.
Balcones Canyonlands is part of several thousand acres of preserve straddling the Burnet-Travis county line.
The burn site, just off of FM 1174 between Cow Creek Road and FM 1869, produced noticeable smoke throughout the afternoon.
To reduce public concerns potentially sparked by a smoke-filled horizon, burn crews notified local fire safety officials.
“They notified us, so we’re aware they’re doing a prescribed burn,” Marble Falls Fire Rescue Chief Russell Sander said. “We wanted to let the citizens know because they may see a large column of smoke east of the community.”
Prescribed burns that will create such billowing plumes of smoke periodically through the next several months serve an important purpose.
“They don’t have livestock out there, so that country isn’t getting burned down like on private ranches,” said Burnet County Development Services Director Herb Darling. “It eliminates fire hazards. It gets rid of non-native (plant) species.”
The most recent prescribed burn was on more than double the acreage of the previous 53-acre burn in October, which was part of a grassland restoration project along Cow Creek, just off RR 1431 east of Marble Falls.
Scorching the earth in that location not only removed non-native vegetation and restored grasslands and native wildflowers and wildlife, it also contributed to the health of the creek and Colorado River watershed.
Burning benefits both the refuge as well as nearby residents.
“When they do a prescribed burn, it does protect their neighbors in a sense because it eliminates the fire hazard,” Darling said.
For questions or concerns, call the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge headquarters at (512) 339-9432.
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