Prescribed burn clears Urbana forest

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Crews set fire to underbrush in a portion of Busey Woods in Urbana Thursday afternoon in an effort to improve the forest’s health.

Volunteers shooed visitors out of the portion of the park to be burned and stood guard at barricades to keep visitors from coming near the flames. Meanwhile, walking paths through the forest kept the fire from spreading, according to Mat Balk, the Natural Areas Coordinator for the Urbana Park District.

“We’ve got our crews, when we’re actually doing the burn, with different suppression tools: there’s flappers (tools used to snuff out flames), and then we also have hard rakes for doing the woodland burn,” Balk said.

While the fires do not burn down trees in the forest, they do clear some underbrush, especially honeysuckle, volunteers said.

“Honeysuckle is an invasive species that was brought over here, I believe, in the 60s or 70s,” said Elizabeth Kirby, a master naturalist who volunteered Thursday. “Other things are not able to grow in places where honeysuckle is established.”

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