Fire Management

Fire: Prescribed Burn - view through treesMidewin National Tallgrass Prairie is host to the only Interagency Hotshot Crew in the USDA Forest Service Eastern Region.

The Midewin IHC was formed in July of 2001 as part of the 2000 Most Efficient Level hiring initiative. Members of the Midewin IHC average 10 to 11 14-day assignments in the six months that they are available each year, from February through September. There is a “Type 6” team, which averages eight to nine 14-day assignments in their six-month availability period. Each year, 40 hours of critical training is completed before the crew and engine are available for assignment. 

The IHC is part of the Midewin NTP Fire team, which is active fighting fires across the United States, and locally. Several members of the Midewin NTP Fire team are on Type 1 and Type 2 Incident Management Teams.

Approximately three to five wildland fires occur each year at Midewin NTP. Fires are caused by multiple sources, including railroad sparks, downed powerlines and arson. In 2016, a lightning strike caused a fire that burned 67 acres.

Fire: Prescribed Burn - ignitionsLocally, team members are also instrumental in helping with one of the most essential tools in the prairie restoration process: prescribed burning. The first two prescribed fires were conducted at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in 2001. Between 2001 and 2014, an average of 700 acres were burned by prescribed fire. In the past six years, an average of 3,500 acres have been burned each year.  

Prescribed burning is key in increasing and improving habitat for grassland birds and other native Illinois prairie species. At one time, prairie – an ecosystem that some estimate is as rare as the rainforests – dominated the State of Illinois. After nearly two centuries, in Illinois, less than .01 of one percent of tallgrass prairie remains. 

Fire: Prescribed Burn - water UTVSince 1996, volunteers and staff have been working with over 275 native Illinois prairie plants in an effort to restore and enhance natural areas. Approximately 3,000 acres of land at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie are actively undergoing restoration or enhancement, and several tools are necessary to attaining restoration goals. Some of the restoration tools being implemented along with prescribed fire include invasive species control through judicious herbicide application; field mowing; hand-pulling invasive plants; and brush removal. Use of prescribed fire is among the most effective and necessary pieces of the restoration process. Prescribed burning is beneficial in many ways, including:

  • Reduces hazardous fuels;
  • Minimizes the spread of plant and animal disease;
  • Provides forage for animals;
  • Improves habitat for threatened and endangered species; 
  • Recycles nutrients back to the soil; and promotes the growth of forbs, tallgrasses, wildflowers and other plants; and
  • Removes non-native invasive species that threaten native prairie species.

NNIS: Phragmites leaf bladeAccording to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, invasive species cost the United States approximately $200 billion each year.

Some non-native invasive plant species that have been targeted in recent years at Midewin NTP include: 

  • Autumn olive;
  • Cattails;
  • Garlic mustard;
  • Honeysuckle;
  • Multiflora roses;
  • Phragmites (also known as giant reed);
  • Reed canary grass;
  • Teasels; and
  • Willows.

These plants and more are featured in this guide by the USDA Forest Service and the Midewin Interpretive Association: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5201025.pdf.

This Joliet Herald-News story explains more: “Prescribed burns in December are part of Midewin NTP restoration”: www.shawlocal.com/2019/12/13/prescribed-burns-in-december-are-part-of-midewin-restoration/ab9p0c5/.

To learn more about the Midewin Interagency Hotshot Crew, visit: www.facebook.com/MidewinIHC/.

 

Contact

For questions on the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie Fire Program:

Chris Lundgren- Forest Fire Management Officer

Cell  (815) 922 2502

Email – christopher.lundgren@usda.gov

Joe Parr- Fuels Specialist

Office - 815-423-2137

Cell – (779) 233-7688

Email – joseph.parr2@usda.gov

Jerry Hoffman- Superintendent

Office - (815) 423-2121

Cell - (815) 210-0289

Email – jerry.m.hoffman@usda.gov

Josh Strohmeyer- Engine Captain

Office - 815-423-2161

Cell - 779-240-0194

Email – joshua.strohmeyer@usda.gov



https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/midewin/fire