Crews set fire to Macatawa Marsh in prescribed burn

Posted at 12:44 PM, Apr 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-15 17:50:54-04

HOLLAND, Mich. - See smoke coming from the Holland area today? It is all part of a prescribed burn.

Crews set fire to the Macatawa Marsh in Holland as part of the management plan for the habitat.   The Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway, along with local fire departments and a team of trained professionals from PlantWise LLC,  managed the fire.  The first fire in Holland Township started around 11:00am and was finished about 12:30pm. A second controlled burn in the city of Holland finished up just after 5pm.

The fires are designed to help native species flourish. "The point is to treat invasive species," said Ben Heerspink, a Conservation Land Manager with the Outdoor Discovery Center. "So the biggest ones we worry about in the marsh is phragmites, reed canary grass, and arrowleaf cat tail. Another thing is it helps in the germination of native plants, so we want our native cattails and our native wildflowers to return back to our marshes."

In total, nearly 200 acres were burned in the Holland area today. Fire managers say safety is always a top priority when they do controlled burns like this.

"So the biggest thing is, we like to make sure the burn goes very slowly and very controlled, so we'll actually burn into the wind. Today we have a southeast wind, so we'll start in the northwest and burn towards the wind so it burns nice and slow," said Heerspink. "Another thing they'll do is they'll actually blackline around where we want the fire to stop so you run out of fuels and then the fire can't move any further past the black line."

Controlled burns like this one happen once every three  years in marshy areas. In meadows, fire managers may do it once every two years. This year, the Outdoor Discovery Center says more controlled burns are planned in West Michigan. "We're actually planning on doing one over in Rockford later on," said Heerspink. "Probably in the next couple weeks. And we've already done one at our Outdoor Discovery Center."