Fires - 1946
Nature Bulletin No. 85 September 28, 1946
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
Clayton F. Smith, President
Roberts Mann, Superintendent of Conservation
FIRES - 1946
It happens every fall. Thousands of acres of vacant land are being
burned-off: some of them because of matches, cigarettes or pipe dottle
carelessly tossed aside along the highways and along the trails; some of
them set afire by thoughtless boys; most of them deliberately burned by
people who believe they will improve the crop of grass next year.
That is stupid. And if you start a fire which burns over another person's
property you are liable to arrest and heavy penalty, under the Illinois
law, unless you have given that person proper notice of your intention.
Fires harm -- they never help. The tough seeds and roots of the
worthless grasses and weeds survive a fire but the good nutritious
grasses and most wildflowers are killed. Further, all the winter food and
cover for birds and other wildlife are destroyed.
We are experiencing a severe drought. The luxuriant vegetation of
summer is dead and dry as powder. Some fires rage out of control. They
spread into woodlands and kill the young trees, shrubs and seedlings. If
the bark on the trunks of the larger trees does not actually burn it often
gets so hot that the inner growing layer is injured. Then a cavity
develops at the base of the tree, fungus and insects enlarge that cavity,
and eventually the tree dies or topples over.
Several serious peat-bog fires have occurred recently, ignited by grass
fires which swept over them. Peat beds are formed by the accumulation
of decaying vegetation in low poorly-drained areas underlaid by rock,
marl, hard-pan or watertight clay. Some are thousands of years old and
20 or more feet deep. Others, as in Skokie valley, are shallow. Three
peat fires in the forest preserves were extinguished at great expense by
digging trenches around them, deep down to the mineral subsoil, and
flooding them with great quantities of water. Others on private property
may alternately burn and smolder for many months. Each will leave a
depression filled with powdery reddish ash that will be barren for years.
PREVENT GRASS AND FOREST FIRES!
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Update: June 2012