A newly-lit prescribed fire consumes a surface layer of pine needles and leaf litter as it pulls away from a narrow firebreak on a steep slope above the Flint River. It leaves an arresting scene in its wake. Beneath a clear blue March sky, smoke billowing from a deep layer of smoldering organic matter, known as “duff,” appears almost snow-like in contrast to the glowing flame front and dull ember of sunlight. As ignition continues down the hill, smoke fills the air and fire rapidly blackens an ever-widening area, further securing the narrow “handline” where the fire crew has raked away the duff to expose nonflammable rock and soil.
Conducted by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and partner organizations on private property near the Sprewell Bluff Wildlife Management Area, this fire was designed both to control unwelcome hardwoods and to reduce the heavy layer of duff that had accumulated over decades of fire suppression. Duff must be diminished slowly over the years by repeated “cool” fires such as this one so as not to harm the established longleaf pines. For that reason, this burn followed soon after a rain. Eventually hotter prescribed fires will be welcome as this montane longleaf ecosystem returns to a more historic duff-free condition.
The painting is based on numerous photographs and a short video I made while participating on the burn in 2011.
June 11 - September 11, 2022
Morris Museum of Art
September 22 - October 15, 2022
Ace Franciso Gallery