Second Prescribed Burn on Thomas County Central High School Longleaf Plot

Oct 4, 2022

During the 2022 summer break, the Tall Timbers team, along with Southern Regional Technical College (SRTC) and the Southwest Georgia Prescribed Burn Association, conducted a prescribed burn at Thomas County Central High School (TCCHS), where, in 2019, a chance to learn about the benefits of fire took root. That January, Tall Timbers, in partnership with the Georgia Forestry Foundation and the International Forestry Company, helped TCCHS students plant a longleaf pine restoration plot just adjacent to the high school baseball field. Three years later, attendees gathered for the second prescribed burn in the restoration process. 

Dr. Jeremy Green from Southern Regional Technical College’s Land, Forest, and Wildlife Management program.

As a prescribed fire education project, the restoration plot was “built to burn” and teach the next generation about the benefits of prescribed fire for people and the ecosystem. Longleaf pines, which make up just one type of tree that students planted here, used to cover 90 million acres of land in the United States, but only cover approximately 3 million acres today. In the Red Hills region you can find nearly 1 million acres of that. 

TCCHS and SRTC are strong advocates for workforce development and allowing students opportunities to gain credentials for the exact type of work they’d like to pursue as a career. Two students, who are also members of the Prescribed Burn Association, were on site to help with the burn, a skill they learned while in school.

A recent graduate of STRC and Thomas University, Aubree Plymale, was actually able to participate in conducting the burn. She thinks the educational plot provides the school with an opportunity to make connections with higher education facilities and expose students to an important activity.

A recent graduate of STRC and TU, Aubree Pymalee, looks over the plot before preparing for a prescribed burn.

“It is a good experience for the students and shows good collaboration efforts with the high school,” Pymalee said. 

Nikki Smith, an animal science and veterinary science teacher at TCCHS, says she hopes that the teaching of prescribed burning shows students why it’s important for ecosystems. “I hope they’re able to see the benefits of fire for animals. A lot of people see burning as a negative, but you actually get to see the benefits of regrowth,” said Smith “It’s actually a lot healthier for forests to be burned because you can clear the underbrush and allow the forest to have a lot more vegetation, which helps the animals.”

Conducting controlled burns helps reduce wildfire risk, as well as providing habitat for a wide range of fire adapted plant and wildlife species, including the popular bobwhite quail.

Creating hands-on experiences for students, the future of fire science, prescribed burning, and land and animal conservation, can help kickstart their careers early on in high school.  “I hope that these burns help show students about a potential career in forestry,” said agriculture, forestry, and wildlife management teacher, Alicia Hernandez-Perez. 

Brian Wiebler, Communications Director for Tall Timbers, was on site to view this second prescribed fire on the plot he helped students plant in 2019.

This on-campus longleaf restoration plot will continue to serve as an outdoor classroom for TCCHS for may years to come, providing hands on education opportunities to teach the next generation the importance of prescribed fire.

 

 

 

Prescribed fire underway at Thomas County Central High. You can see the baseball scoreboard in the background.

About the Author
Cristi McKee
Cristi McKee is the Communications Coordinator at Tall Timbers. She's a graduate of Florida State University with a degree in English - Editing, writing, and media and has previously worked in editorial, copywriting and breaking news.
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