SULPHUR — The Chickasaw National Recreation Area will begin a series of prescribed fires starting in November and expect to continue the effort through March 2016.
However, CNRA officials say the prescribed fires will be dependant on weather conditions. The burns are scheduled for the Five Lakes and South Boundary, areas of the park. Approximately 3,000 acres could be treated if the project is successful.  Burning is anticipated to occur primarily in the late morning to evening hours, from approximately 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
Ron Parker , CNRA spokesperson says, the fires will be conducted by a management team consisting of firefighters from CNRA, Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge, Lake Meredith NRA, units from the New Mexico Bureau of Land Management, and other National Park Service units.
“During the burn periods, property owners will be notified about work in their area, and will be advised of any special procedures that would minimize the effects of smoke such as turning off central heat and/or air conditioning units, “ Parker explained
“The burns, which will attempt to simulate natural fire conditions, will occur from Arbuckle Dam area west towards Arbuckle Estates, and west of the Five Lakes Area. The burns are a part of the NPS’s prescribed fire program to help protect local communities from the catastrophic effects of uncontrolled wildland fires while promoting the natural ecosystem’s ability to thrive. Public and firefighter safety are the number one priority. Prescribed fires also improve forest health by promoting nutrient recycling, increasing habitat diversity, and reducing fuels that lead to unwanted, out-of-control wildfires.
“While fall hunting in the Five Lakes area may be impacted by the burning, habitat improvement from the fires will contribute to increases in species such as deer and turkey and thereby improve hunting opportunities in future years and thereby improve hunting opportunities.”
According to Parker, the prescribed fires will help to maintain the short grass prairie ecosystem by reducing eastern red cedar within the park.
“Eastern red cedar is extremely invasive if left unchecked,” Parker says. “The tree species creates a wildfire hazard, displaces other species from the natural ecosystem, impairs local air quality by producing allergens, and contributes to the general decline of the local water table. Control of the eastern red cedar will increase public safety by reducing the hazardous fuel load in the wildland-urban interface and move the ecosystem closer to a natural state. Under natural conditions eastern red cedar is limited by periodic natural fires.”
Parker cautioned smoke from the prescribed fires may be visible in downtown Sulphur, Davis, Dougherty, Rock Creek, Veterans Lake, Buckhorn areas, Goddard Youth Camp Road, and along Chickasaw Trail.
“But every effort will be made to minimize smoke impacts,” he says.
 Wind direction and upper level mixing of smoke will be utilized in an attempt to eliminate or reduce these inconveniences. Smoke will be present in the vicinity during burning, but is generally expected to settle over the Lake of the Arbuckles and disperse overnight.
Area residents who would like to receive daily updates on which burn unit will be ignited and the predicted direction of smoke impacts should call (580) 618-2601 or visit http://www.inciweb.nwcg.gov.