DNR: Protocol Not Followed for Benton County Prescribed Fire
An initial review of the prescribed fire in Benton County on April 11 found the National Weather Service was not in any way in error and that certain steps as part of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources internal burn policy were not followed.
“We never want something like this to happen and thankfully no one was injured and only minimal property damage occurred. The local fire departments did an excellent job responding and we will use this as a teaching point during our annual fire training,” said DNR Director Chuck Gipp.
The prescribed burn was going accordingly until the wind shifted. Once the wind shifted, staff began to extinguish the fire. The fire re-ignited and jumped to adjoining properties to the east. Once that happened, local responders were called in to help control the fire.
“The National Weather Service is a trusted partner of ours and they provided us with the correct information that we requested for Johnson County, but we failed to contact them for the burn in Benton County,” Gipp said.
The investigation found that staff had failed to contact adjacent residents and those in the area where the smoke will disperse, which is part of the smoke management procedure and Gipp said they will take steps to correct that through additional training.
Gipp said a full investigation into the fire will be conducted.
“We will not burn until we do these things in the future,” he said. “This is in our burn policy. We will revisit it and make sure our staff have a clear understanding of the importance that each of these steps have in a prescribed burn.”
The DNR uses burning as a management tool to help fend off encroaching woody species and nonnative plants in an effort to promote diverse native grasses and wildflowers. Burning removes the accumulated thatch and reinvigorates native plants by simulating what occurred naturally for centuries.