The Houston Fire Department and officials with the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center will conduct a prescribed fire on the Arboretum grounds Feb. 21, weather permitting, to improve the natural environment's resilience and diversity.

The details

The fire will be conducted in the center's Savanna area, in the northeastern corner, south of Woodway Drive and along portions of the Post Oak Trail and Outer Loop trail. The affected area will be closed to visitors during the fire, which will occur roughly from noon-2 p.m.

The context

Prescribed fires are used to promote vegetation growth and diversity by reducing the presence of invasive species, according to Feb. 16 news release from the Arboretum. Officials organizing the fire use methods to precisely plan where the burn occurs and to mimic naturally occurring fires.

Through use of a controlled fire, officials can also reduce the likelihood of an unwanted fire occurring later on by decreasing the flammable material in the area, such as dead trees and leaf litter.

A look back

A prescribed fire in 2022 targeting the Arboeretum's Meadow area resulted in incomplete coverage because of heavy rains that occurred in the days leading up to the fire. Officials followed up with another burn earlier in February. The Feb. 21 burn will be the fourth prescribed fire at the Houston Arboretum since March 2021.

Quote of note

“Historically, the Houston region burned every two to four years from natural occurrences,” Arboretum Conservation Director Stephen Benigno said in a statement. “Our landscapes are reliant on fire. And we’re seeing the positive impacts of fire on the diversity of native vegetation and reduction of invasive species in areas where prescribed fires have previously been conducted.”

One more thing

Leading up to the fire, officials said they will also be monitoring weather, including wind speed and direction. Depending on what they observe, the fire could be deemed unsuitable and rescheduled. The plan also includes elements to ensure the fire does not affect nearby properties, according to the release, though individuals and drivers on nearby roads might see smoke.

Drivers are urged to reduce their speed and use headlights when smoke is present.