Prescribed Burn in Erie County a Great Success

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Prescribed Burn in Erie County a Great Success

by Thomas deHaas and John Blakeman


The day was perfect. Light wind from the south, dry grass, moist soil, plenty of hands, Milan Volunteer Fire Department was on hand and an experienced Ohio Certified Prescribed Fire Manager directed the day's activities. So, what is a prescribed fire and how does it work and benefit with prairie restoration?








The date was March 13, 2024. The burn took place in Erie County, Ohio on what was described as the Wheeler Prairie, with a private landowner desiring to maintain his prairie restoration.








But you can't just set a field on fire and hope for the best. State open burn rules must be carefully followed.


Planning and conducting the prescribed fire was Ohio Certified Prescribed Fire Manager John Blakeman who has decades of experience in controlled burns and prairie restoration.


There are very strict Ohio EPA and Ohio Division of Forestry requirements to ensure public and environmental safety.

They can be found at:


Open burning is prohibited in the months of March, April and May as well as September, October, and November when it is illegal to burn between the hours of 6AM and 6PM. The exception is when a prescribed fire can take place under the direction of an Ohio Certified Prescribed Fire Manager.


For such a prescribed fire there needs to be a detailed burn plan that must be followed, to assure the burn will be both safe and effective.


The burn at the Wheeler property was set to start at 10AM on March 13, 2024. Map of the property is attached:


burn sml






As an observer, I was told that all that was used for ignition were matches. No accelerants.


The fire is set and dragged along the fire line using a garden rake.







The fire is set upwind from the direction of wind, so that the fire backs slowly and safely into the fuel; consuming it safely at a slow to moderate speed.








In the case of the Wheeler property, grassy border lanes are mowed and maintained as turf or lawn which entirely surround the nine acres of prairie. The mowed turf lanes are fuel breaks; fire can't move across them into areas that shouldn't be burned.







The green grass will not support the fire.


Once the edge line is set, the fire burns back into the field until it reaches the next mowed turf area and then burns out.







The process is best carried out with a few experienced burn crew members, who expertly ignite the fuels on the downwind edges of the mowed fuel-break lanes. At this prescribed fire, members of the local fire department were on hand, to learn themselves, how field fires spread and be available with a spray truck if it was needed.







You can see how close the fire appears to get to the house.








But the house was never in danger because of the green lawn.







John has been planning and conducting prescribed fires in Ohio prairies since 1975.


He said, “To keep flames under control, you never want 2 fires to intersect at a right angle."


In a recent weather video I watched by Richard Hammond on Extreme Weather, here’s the reason. Fire Whirl. See time 16:25 to 31:37. :


As I toured the burn siite on the next rainy day, the prescribed fire was a definite success. In May, the prairie plant roots (which were unaffected by fire) will strongly resprout, fertilized by the ash of the fire.








Burn Boss John Blakeman assisted in writing this article.

He is available to answer questions. His contact is:

John Blakeman


phone: 419-602-0789


Attached are three links that anyone doing an open burn for horticultural or ecological purposes should have in hand and follow.


The Model Open Burn Notification shows how to properly fill in the OEPA Open Burn Notification form.


A local burn notification sign needs to be taped to a utility pole or other structure along the street or road of the open burn, so that on the day of the burn it is readable from a parked car. It gives the name and phone number of the person doing the open burn, and his or her phone number. Required by OEPA.







An extremely useful burn data form John created includes various data that can be entered and retained. All of the data blanks are required information that must be kept for one year, for examination by the OEPA or any other state or local agency. A fire department notification form also needs to be completed:







In addition, the Open Burn Notification Form can be completed as found below:










Of course, many municipalities have specific open burn restrictions or prohibitions. Before doing an open burn, local municipality or township officials should be consulted; beyond the restrictions of the Ohio EPA or Division of Forestry. 


A good explantion reguarding the benefits of a prescribed burn are found at the ODNR Website is attached below:


And, of course, the burning of dead vegetation or debris merely to dispose of it is prohibited. Prescribed burns are only for the restoration or management of existing plants.


John's contact information is below:


John Blakeman

Meadow Environments LLC

4312 Woodridge Dr

Sandusky OH 44870


419-602-0789 (cell) 





Many thanks to John for expanding my horizons!!