MOULTRIE — Moultrie residents need not be afraid of the sight of smoke at Spence Field or at the Moultrie Municipal Airport between now and the end of February. The Moultrie Fire Department plans controlled burns of wooded areas there.

Moultrie Fire Department Chief Kenneth Hannon said the burns at Spence Field will take about three weeks. The fire department has to plan the burns for days the U.S. Air Force will not be using Spence Field for fighter pilot training exercises.

The dates of controlled burns at the Moultrie Municipal Airport are not yet known, but Hannon said the fire department hopes to be completed by the end of February. The department needs to meet with airport officials to determine what days are best in relation to air traffic.

The Moultrie Fire Department is working with the Georgia Forestry Commission to complete the controlled burns, Hannon said. The forestry commission digs the fire lines in the wooded areas, and the fire department starts and maintains the fires.

Denny Sellers, chief ranger of the Georgia Forestry Commission’s Colquitt County office, said there are many purposes for a controlled burn. The fire department’s burns are primarily to reduce hazardous fuels in a wooded area and prevent a potential wildfire from starting.

Controlled burns serve other purposes too, as Sellers said they help control insects and diseases, improve grazing areas for animals, enhance the appearance of land and remove logging debris.

“A burn is a very economical way to remove fuel and to provide a way to improve wildlife habitats,” Sellers said.

There are two different types of burns, Sellers said. A controlled burn is done by simply digging firebreaks and starting the fire. A prescribed burn, however, requires much more planning, such as factoring in weather conditions and setting specific boundaries for the burn.

Sellers said the winter months are normally the best time to have a controlled burn because temperatures and humidity are lower and most of the vegetation is dormant. The weather, however, is the biggest concern for a burn because of smoke management and controlling where it goes, particularly in an enclosed area.

Residents can perform their own controlled burns, but Sellers said they must have a burn permit from the Forestry Commission to legally burn. There are certain guidelines a person must follow, and the Forestry Commission can provide assistance for anyone who needs it.

Call the Forestry Commission at 891-7120 for more information.

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