Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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Fire is the Enemy of Field and Forest
Nature Bulletin No. 10   April 14, 1945
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
Clayton F. Smith, President
Roberts Mann, Superintendent of Conservation

There have been 112 fires in the forest preserves since January 1, burning over 612 acres, including 150 acres of fine woodland and young forest plantings. There need not have been ONE if people only understood the damage done by forest and grass fires.

Every spring and every fall, thousands of acres of prairie and vacant subdivisions are burnt off. Some of these fires jump over into forest preserves. Many fires start inside the preserves, or along their highway borders, from matches, cigarettes or pipe bottle thrown aside by careless people. Some start from picnic fires. A few are kindled by boys who have seen their parents or neighbors do the same thing at home.

Most people believe that the prairies should be burnt off " to make better grass". The new green grass shows more quickly when the old grass and weeds have been so removed. But the good, nutritious grasses, such as bluegrass, timothy, and clover, are killed by repeated burning. Only the tough grasses, such as crabgrass and quackgrass, survive these burnings and they are of little value for pasture or hay. Most of the weed seeds are unharmed by such burnings. The native wildflowers, however, disappear. Burning also destroys all food and cover for birds and other wildlife.

Fire in the woods kills the young trees and frequently so scars the trunks of the older trees that disease and insects can enter, eventually destroying them. Fire also consumes the fallen leaves, twigs and other vegetable matter which, if allowed to decay, provide necessary natural fertilizer.

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