Acres of brush burn in Sandstone to preserve environment - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

Acres of brush burn in Sandstone to preserve environment

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SANDSTONE, W. Va (WVVA)-- Park Rangers and firefighters set a blaze in Sandstone that burned nearly 5 acres.

But it was a job done on purpose.

They call it a "prescribed" burn, said supervising park ranger David Bieri, because of the way the group of rangers and firefighters worked to keep it contained.

The fire is set annually outside the Sandstone Visitor Center to protect native grasses that rangers say are at risk of being overcome by invasive plant species, as well as to preserve the habitat for grassland birds and rodents.

Rangers said the fire is controlled and monitored closely to ensure safety not just for the visitor center, but also for nearby drivers on Interstate 64.

"We want it to be hot enough and dry enough that the fire is going to take, but not to the point that we are worried about it getting out of control," said Bieri. "We've got somebody monitoring the weather the entire time we are out here."

Park Rangers said these burns are meant for professionals. Bieri warns the public to use caution when using campfires and discarding cigarette butts, especially during windy and dry conditions.

Peggy Ainslie, fire management officer for New River Gorge, said there were firefighters on standby in case things got out of hand.

"We'll rotate out the firefighters so they're not taking too much heat," she said. "5-600 degrees heats you up," she added.

The Sandstone Visitor Center was closed until the burn was complete.

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