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HOUSTON (KIAH) If you see a burn near Memorial Park today, do NOT call 9-1-1. That’s because, in partnership with the Houston Fire Department (HFD) and Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD), the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center will conduct another prescribed fire, this time on approximately three acres of the meadow area in the western portion of the nature sanctuary, which is located near IH 610 West Loop and Woodway Drive.

Smoke may be visible from the West Loop near the park, but it’s not an emergency. Authorities will be on scene the entire duration.

The burn begins at 10 a.m. when certified authorities will ignite the fire the prescribed burn. The event will last till 1 p.m. when the burn is expected to finish.

HFD’s wildland firefighters will be performing and overseeing the entire prescribed fire to establish continuity and the swift mitigation of potential life safety hazards. HFD will also be coordinating with Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the Houston Health Department to establish clean air (atmospheric) monitoring during the prescribed fire.

“This proactive approach is the most practical way to reduce dangerous accumulation of combustible fuels and protect our community by reducing the risk of unwanted wildfires in the future.  Our wildland firefighting group and emergency operations personnel, in collaboration with our safety partners, will ensure a professional controlled burn operation”, says Fire Chief Samuel Peña.

HFD will be canvassing adjacent neighborhoods with literature to ensure citizens are aware and well informed. One of HFD’s many goals preceding the prescribed fire is to educate the public and protect the interface between the neighborhood and the Arboretum. During the burn period, individuals may see smoke in their area or on nearby roads. HFD is requesting citizens near the burn site to refrain from calling 911. HFD cautions drivers to reduce their speed, use headlights when smoke is present, and always pay attention to posted reduced speed limits. Nearby roadways and trails may be posted with signs indicating “prescribed fire ahead.”

What is a prescribed fire?

Why it’s important >>> FIGHTING FIRE WITH FIRE

A prescribed fire will aid in reducing potential fire threats, due to years of vegetation accumulation. Years of vegetation accumulation presents a significant wildland fire threat to the surrounding residential community. The reduction of fuel load, through a prescribed fire, is the appropriate safety step in protecting surrounding residents and their homes.  

More about the Arboretum

The Arboretum executed a successful prescribed fire in March 2021 and looks forward to using this important tool in the future. Prescribed fires are heavily planned endeavors which safely mimic the essential natural fire cycle and are a common land management technique for improving resiliency and diversity of native habitat. Periodic burns also mitigate the risk of destructive wildfires by reducing the “fuel load” in the designated area – dead trees, leaf litter, and other flammable vegetation.

Long-term use of prescribed fires will help the Arboretum maintain its historic ecosystems, which will in turn increase biodiversity, provide environmental education opportunities, and preserve gulf coast prairie and savanna, both endangered ecosystems that are essential for native wildlife. Healthy grasslands, like those found within the prescribed burn area, are better able to absorb and filter flood waters during flood events. Grassland birds, like quail and northern harrier hawks, need fire to maintain open habitat for nesting and feeding.