DNR starts fires to help wildlife

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources conducts a prescribed burn at Navarino Wildlife Area, May 23, 2014. (WLUK/Gabrielle Mays)

SHAWANO COUNTY - A fire burning through Shawano County Friday may have seemed destructive, but it was actually set on purpose to help the area.

The fire burned through 30 acres within the Navarino Wildlife Area.

"The main purpose of the fire is to prevent trees and shrubs from taking the site over," said District Wildlife Biologist Jeff Pritzl.

Although ducks and other birds are seen near water, the wildlife uses grassy areas to lay eggs.

"You can have great wetlands habitat but if you don't have the associated nesting, upland nesting cover, you won't have duck reproduction," Pritzl said.

The DNR wants to make sure the birds keep coming back but before the controlled burn began it had to be mapped out.

"We want to always start on the downwind side because it's much more controllable to work into the wind," said DNR Burn Boss Eric Roers.

Flames started to spread and smoke began to billow in a matter of seconds.

A line of dirt surrounded the grassland to keep the fire from burning out of control.

"They made this mineral break, 10 feet of pure dirt that things can't burn through. Inside of that we also do some mowing so we have really short grass for another 10 feet," Roers said.

Once this area is completely burned, the fire releases all of the nutrients in the dead grass and it acts like a fertilizer and then helps plants grow.

DNR officials said the blackened ground will start turning green in about a month but wildlife won't start nesting in the area until next year.

"We burn somewhere every year but we rotate through our units depending on how fast the brush comes back," said Roers.

The Navarino Wildlife Area has around 30 different burn units.

DNR officials said the area they burned Friday will last around four years to six years.