Saturday, April 05, 2008

smoke junkies

If you're driving along and you see smoke rising in the distance, and you turn your car in the direction of the billowing cloud, it can only mean one thing - you're a "Smoke Junkie". A smoke junkie is simply someone who needs to know the source of the smoke. Sometimes you're just a curious person and sometimes your the daughters of a firefighter like the two young women I met today.

They had already pulled up at the edge of the prairie burn when I arrived. The Kane County Forest Preserve District was doing a controlled burn on the large grassland area west of LaFox Road. This is one of the men in charge of the burn. He's riding a four wheeler which is loaded with water allowing him quick access to areas where the burn needs to be contained.


In the past the perimeters of the burn area would be maintained by a large number of people on foot with brooms.


The gentleman took off for the other side of the prairie that they were setting ablaze.


It burns hot and fast and creates what appears to be a great amount of smoke.


But in under 10 minutes the grasses have burned themselves out.


I realize it looks like total devastation but it's not. This is a natural way for a prairie to renew itself. In two week you won't even know this spot. New green growth will begin to cover the entire area.

You can read more about the process of controlled burns HERE.

I followed a tiny puff of smoke on my way home from work one day and about ten minutes after I arrived this was the scene at a barn fire in Elburn.


And to the two young women I met today and to any other smoke junkies out there, I think we need some tee shirts so that we can recognize each other. Here's our new logo, feel free to have some shirts made up.


pablo said...

Native Americans supposedly called prairie fires the "red buffalo" because it could stampede across the prairie. The Illinois writer John Madsen once got his neighbors upset because he burned his "backyard prairie" down in Grafton. He had the town's permission, but his neighbors had never heard of the idea of burning a "lawn."

Suzanne said...

Pablo - each time I post something about prairie burns I get e-mails from people who never heard of it. I don't know if it's a "midwest thing" or what.

My neighbor has a prairie that is almost 2 acres. Some of the neighbors were not too sure about the big patch of weeds!

Jerry said...

Years ago, here in Indiana, we used to burn the fence rows. Mostly to keep the weeds down. Sometimes the wooden posts would catch fire. Now all the fences have been removed since no one has livestock anymore.

Most open burns now start from a cigarette.

Lori said...

Yup...we do this. But since my husband works in emergency management, it's part of the job. Whenever I'm not home, and I see smoke in the direction of our house, I always get that sinking feeling until I can see our home safely intact again.

Caffienated Cowgirl said...

Thanks for posting about this. While we didn't have "prairie burns" in California, we did have "control burns" in the mountains where I grew up. For us as well, it began with the Indians...they would burn the undergrowth in the fall so that the fires would be fewer and the feed would be greater the following year. For us with grazing allotments, it was a part of life...until "others" deemed it unhealthy...yet now there are more wildfires.

And I was a smoke junkie growing up :)

Anonymous said...

wow! I learn something new every day ... smoke junkie. Well I wonder what you'd call my mother-in-law ... she follows ambulances. ? I just call her a drama