BEATRICE – National Park Service officials used favorable Saturday weather conditions to conduct controlled burns on more than 75 acres of tall grass prairie and wooded areas.

The Homestead National Historical Park west of Beatrice was the scene of the prescribed fire, which included the west one-third of the park’s tallgrass prairie grass, along with areas at the east boundary parking of the Heritage Center….and an area of Oak trees south of the Education Center.

"Kind of a middle section of the woodland...and it will be our first time burning the woodland, as well, and so we're excited to see how that works. Oak woodlands need fire in order to survive, and its something that's kind of been lacking there, since the park service got the land in 1939. It will be good to get fire in there, and see the results that we have." Jesse Bolli is the Natural Resources Specialist for the Homestead. He says a combination of some rain and dry conditions at the end of the week, made burning the grass prairie fairly simple.

"In the woodland, you're worried more about the heavier fuels that take a lot longer to get moist and then to dry out. The extended drought means that some of the bigger logs that we wouldn't expect to burn, will burn....which will be good for our overall goals of opening the forest up a little bit. All in all, it will be a good day for it."

Winds during the burn were from the north at about eight to twelve miles-per-hour, pushing smoke away from the nearby Pioneer Acres residential subdivision, along Nebraska Highway Four.

"That's one of the things that we're really sensitive to...the neighbors on the highway. We waited for this day for a long time...we've been trying to get this burn done since about November 15th...and everything kind of fell together on Thursday night. So, we were able to get crews here and make it happen."

The parking area around the Heritage Center had never been part of a prescribed burn before. Areas of grass east of the center to Southwest 75th Road near a pond, were part of the controlled burning. That area had not been burned since the Heritage Center was built, in 2006.  The burning is done to reduce fuel, maintain plant diversity, help native prairie plants, add nutrients and reduce invasive plants.

The fire crews included personnel from the Homestead, the regional park service office, area fire support and crews from Buffalo National River in Arkansas and Indiana Dunes National Park.

Fire personnel monitor advance of flames