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After Years Of Delay, Controlled Burns Continue On Former Fort Ord

The smoke plume over the Monterey Bay Thursday came from two controlled burns on the former Fort Ord. The burns are part of the ongoing cleanup of the old Army base.

Bill Collins is the Environmental Coordinator for the Army’s Fort Ord Base and Realignment Closure Office. He escorted a group of local news media near the burn to take pictures.

As helicopters circled around the fire, a plume of peachy-colored smoke bloomed into the sky.

“The fire is doing exactly what we want it to,” said Collins.

It’s been four years since the last controlled burn. They’ve been waiting on the perfect conditions.  

“This area has been in a drought. There were a lot of wildfires and one of the requirements of us conducting prescribed burns is to make sure that we have local resources available in case of an escape,” Collins said.

The area burning was where the Army practiced warfare from World War II until the base closed more than twenty years ago. These burns rejuvenate the natural habitat. They also clear vegetation, making it safer for the Army to go in and get rid of leftover munitions.

“And they go through every square foot of the property looking for items that are on the surface that may be explosive hazards,” said Collins.

When that’s done, it will create more open space on the Fort Ord National Monument, which is run by the Bureau of Land Management. Eric Morgan is Monument Manager.

“So with the munitions gone we can actually put trails exactly where we want them and design them exactly how we think that they should be,” said Monument Manager Eric Morgan.  

The Army hopes to have three more controlled burns by the end of this year.

Erika joined KAZU in 2016. Her roots in radio began at an early age working for the independent community radio station in her hometown of Boulder, Colorado. After graduating from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in 2012, Erika spent four years working as a television reporter. She’s very happy to be back in public radio and loves living in the Monterey Bay Area.
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