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Smokey Skies Today? Fire Crews Ignite Controlled Burns

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Don't be alarmed if it looks like the whole town is burning Friday.

From far away, Des Moines Parks and Recreation Marketing Supervisor, Jen Fletcher, says that's what it could look like. But it's actually just a small group of trained professionals, getting some prescribed burns out of the way at the Greater Des Moines Softball Complex.

"What our team does is look at the week, if the wind and the weather conditions are right, we'll map out a list of locations, and it's really a game-day decision: they burn where they can, when they can, because we have 500 acres within the parks system we target to burn," Fletcher said. "A good year is anywhere between 100 and 200 acres."

Fletcher says it has to be an impromptu decision because a multitude of factors - including wind, humidity in the ground, and frost - determine if the team can get a fire going or not. Friday, a different site was scrapped after attempts to get flames going didn't take off. A large prairie at the softball fields took fire almost immediately.

"This particular spot, we haven't burned this spot for four years," Fletcher said. "It's a great land-management tool. We're really doing what Mother Nature would do if we weren't here. What it does is gets rid of invasive plant species, and lets the native roots grow."