Groundhog Day at Alligator Prairie

Published by Kirsti Harms on

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.

I joined the group on a beautiful morning on February 2. This is the before shot.

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.

Several local volunteers came out to participate in the burn demonstration.

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.

Nancy met us in the morning, ready to go!

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:

The day started with a briefing and demonstration by the TPWD burn crew.

Demonstrating use of the drip torch and other tools to manage fire.

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.

Using a drip torch along the edge of a mowed and disked fire break that Nancy created.

Then the business of burning began in earnest.

There are many kinds of smoke in one of these burns.

The charred remains of native bunch grasses.
The burn was almost complete by midday.
It was a successful burn day!
Time to go home after a day of burning.
We hope to return this spring to see how the landscape has changed.

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.

Categories: In the Field


Nancy Webber · February 23, 2021 at 8:49 pm

You had me at the first photo.

Anne Furse · February 24, 2021 at 9:19 pm

Great photos – and interesting video. Thanks!

Angela Roth · February 25, 2021 at 8:47 am

I will use this to teach my students! Thank you!!

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