It's burning season for South Walton

Published: Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 04:48 PM.

"We don't want to create problems," said Goddin of the importance of taking the necessary precautions.

The burns are permitted after the first frost, which is typically in late-November, and they can be conducted through early March, depending on the temperature and other weather conditions.

The wind conditions must be just about perfect. If wind is blowing anywhere near the direction of Highway 98, the results could be accident-causing. The winds must be strong enough so the fire can slowly creep back into thicker brush but not so strong that lit debris will jump over a boundary marking fire break, such as a road or the low-mowed grass around powerlines.

But planning a prescribed fire is not guesswork, and using computer programs, a burn boss can map out a projected smoke path using the wind speed and direction.

This is just how burn boss Shane McGowan chose a recent Monday to conduct a prescribed burn on 209 acres of Point Washington State Forest. With winds out of the northeast at 9 mph, conditions were just right. They repeated the process last week and burned 436 additional acres.

Even with all of the precautions taken, though, there is a possibility that a fire can jump a boundary. When that happens, "We put it out," said McGowan with a smile. If a fire gets out of the area of designation, the Fire Service has strategically situated plows that can create a break of sand around the fire, to cut it off from the other brush.

On Monday the fires were put down using handheld or ATV-strapped drip torches around 10:20 a.m., and McGowan and his crew had the fires stamped out by 4 p.m.

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