CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – If you noticed any smoke coming from the area of Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee Wednesday, there was no reason to be alarmed. Firefighters at the base are burning 235 acres of dead grass, as part of an effort to keep the grasslands healthy and prevent future brush fires.
Westover Fire Chief Charles Van Gorden told 22News that it is a highly technical operation, and before they could begin, they had to seek permission from a variety of federal, civilian, and military organizations.
“It’s all approved by the military, the Wildlife Fire Service, the DEP, the EPA; everybody that has an initial signed off on this plan,” Van Gorden said.
These types of controlled burns are conducted in order to eliminate dry grasses that could become fuel for spreading wildfires. Van Gorden said that dead grass poses a much greater fire danger than the green grass that will grow in its place. These fires are also designed to eliminate weeds and other invasive species from the grasslands.
By late afternoon, they had completed burning the more than 200 acres. By the controlled burning of several hundred acres at a time, they’re able to get to the entire 2,500 acres of Westover grassland every five years.