Groundhog Day at Alligator Prairie
A Date with a Prescribed Burn
By Kirsti Harms
On February 2, 2021, I joined a group of volunteers invited to participate in a prescribed burn at Nancy Webber’s Milam County property: Alligator Prairie. Nancy invited local Master Naturalists and other volunteers out on this sunny February morning. I offered to take photos to document the process.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) staff were working with Nancy to conduct a private landowner burn demonstration. These demonstrations allow a landowner interested in prescribed fire a chance to see a burn being conducted. Participants get a chance to assist on the burn.
Alligator Prairie is a 60 acre tract in Milam County on the border between clay blackland and sandy post oak savannah. Both soil types reach in fingers extended through the property. Once this gently rolling land supported American bison and pronghorn on vast, rich grasslands interspersed with wetlands created by beaver and populated by, yes, even alligators. Early white settlers in nearby Bell County founded a small settlement they named Alligator, so impressed were they by these immense reptiles.
When weather conditions were considered safe for fire, we received an email from Toni Aguilar, TPWD Regional Fire Management Coordinator, with information on what to wear and what to expect. It included a video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iizneuHZ2Ew
The day started with a briefing and demonstration by the TPWD burn crew.
The group moved to the northwest corner of the property to conduct a back burn. We didn’t want the fire to enter the neighboring property. TPWD staff coached volunteers on starting the fires with a drip torch.
Then the business of burning began in earnest.
There are many kinds of smoke in one of these burns.
The complete story about Nancy’s ranch and this burn day will be in the spring issue of the NPAT Prairie Journal. Stay tuned!
Photos courtesy of Thomas Janke and Kirsti Harms.