What Not to Do Before 26.2

A running buddy of mine loves to remind me of something another friend once said. “That was not one of your brighter moves, Steph, and let’s face it, you’ve done some stupid things.” It’s true, I know. Running with Scissors was not an idle choice.

So when I volunteered to help on a prescribed burn at Penny’s Bend Nature Preserve two days before the Blue Ridge Marathon, I did hesitate for a second. Nowhere in the running literature does it say “Two days before your race, strap 5 gallons of water on your back, grab a fire rake and a drip torch, and spend the day setting the woods on fire.”

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Mike lighting off the first burn unit.

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Although prescribed burning is not the same as fighting wildfires, there is a lot of prep work involved. Here’s some of our equipment.

The NC Botanical Garden is using fire at Penny's Bend Nature Preserve to manage a more open forest.

The NC Botanical Garden is using fire at Penny’s Bend Nature Preserve to restore the more open forest that they think was here historically.

Yeah, BUT. I only get the chance to help with fires once or twice a year, and I was not about to miss out. And, for anyone who has visions of extreme smoke-jumpers, this was not that. Prescribed burning takes a lot of meticulous planning and safety training for the burn boss, but it’s really child’s play for a bunch of volunteers who were pyros as kids. Fortunately someone took the water backpack from me (it’s only ~25 lbs full, but sloshes around awkwardly and the straps are too wide for my shoulders), and I spent most of my time on drip torch duty, lighting fires one small unit at a time, which is my favorite job. It was a beautiful day, and we burned one unit at a time, mostly as planned. My shoulders are a little sore and I probably need to spend today re-hydrating.

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Yes, setting fires is really fun!

Lighting fires is fun!

NO REGRETS!

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2 thoughts on “What Not to Do Before 26.2

  1. Stephanie, that sounds like a fun way to spend the day! Depending on your experience during Blue Ridge, maybe this will become a regular part of marathon taper… Good luck!

  2. Hi Darrel, it was so much fun! I have been a “volunteer” for years–meaning that I’ve taken and passed the pack test–but this was only my second fire. The scheduling has to take place at the last minute because of weather. It was a nice distraction from taper madness and I was only a little bit sore for the race on Saturday. I’d do it again in a minute!

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