Flaming: Steamboat Run Holds Prescribed Burn to Promote Prairie Health and Safety | News, Sports, Jobs

A Sustainable Solutions LLC employee sets fire to the edge of the Steamboat Run prairie on Sunday afternoon. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN – The fire burned bright along Steamboat Run Road on Sunday afternoon as a crew from Sustainable Solutions LLC carried out a prescribed burn on a 10-acre meadow in the private community.

According to the chairman of the Steamboat Run Community Association’s Common Grounds Committee, Than Hitt, the prescribed burn was a long time coming, in that it had been the focus of the committee for many years, as part of its management of the meadow as a grassland bird sanctuary under the Grassland Bird Initiative of the Potomac Valley Audubon Society.

“It costs several thousand dollars, but it is an investment in conservation! Hitt said, priced at $4,850. “It’s new. It’s something special for a private community to do. It takes a lot of time and effort, but it’s doable.

“It could be done, sequentially, every several years. It’s going to depend on the results of this burn, how we proceed in the future,” Hitt said, mentioning that hiring Sustainable Solutions to perform the burn and maintain safety protocols with an audience of two dozen nearby was an easy decision. “They have experience in this practice and are highly respected in the region, so choosing Sustainable Solutions, with their local knowledge and expertise in this area, was a no-brainer for us.”

Laurel Parker, one of the founding members of the Common Ground Committee, watched the prescribed burn with a sense of satisfaction.

KC Walters, who advised Steamboat Run to perform the prescribed burn, as a current Potomac Valley Audubon Society employee and certified wildland firefighter, addresses participants in the prescribed burn Sunday afternoon. Tabitha Johnston

“I’m glad it’s finally happening! We’ve been working on it for a while,” said Parker. “Really, a controlled burn is the best way to take care of the prairie.”

According to Sustainable Solutions LLC President and Founder James Remuzzi, prescribed burning is a practice that historically would have occurred in the area as a result of a lightning strike. In the modern era, these prairie fires are quickly extinguished, to prevent the fire from spreading uncontrollably. Prescribed burning allows for the benefits, without the consequences, of grassland fires — a healthier ecosystem, with revitalized soil and vegetation, which should lead to an increase in wildlife.

“It’s not every day that you see a controlled burn” Remuzzi told the crowd. “We’re really excited to have everyone here! It’s a great learning opportunity.

Former Sustainable Solutions LLC employee, certified wildland firefighter and PVAS land and conservation officer KC Walters was on hand to further explain the procedure. According to Walters, she had been one of the people encouraging the committee to continue with prescribed burning, which is a practice often recommended for PVAS registered grassland bird sanctuaries. Hopefully, with the help of prescribed burning, the 20 nesting boxes along the edges of the meadow, as well as the vegetation within the meadow, will soon become hosts to more than its current 110 bird species.

“I think it’s nature’s spring cleaning!” Walters talked about prescribed burns. “The ultimate goal here is local habitat rejuvenation – to burn off invasive species, bring back native species and introduce more wildlife to this area. We hope to bring endangered species back here, such as Eastern Meadowlark, evening sparrow, grasshopper sparrow and bobolink.

A Sustainable Solutions LLC employee puts out the prescribed burn fire along the Steamboat Run Meadow on Sunday afternoon. Tabitha Johnston

“I would love for every neighborhood to focus on ecological conservation in their plans,” Walters said, noting that Sunday’s blaze went as well as expected, thanks to a light southerly wind that helped the fire grow in the ideal direction. “The way support fire goes, it’s pretty much a textbook for how it’s supposed to happen.”

Sustainable Solutions LLC President and Founder James Remuzzi talks about the prescribed burn to his attendees on Sunday afternoon. Tabitha Johnston

A sign along Steamboat Run Road warns drivers of smoke from Sunday’s prescribed burn, which is visible in the distance. Tabitha Johnston

Chris B. Hall