IOWA — Spring has arrived in Iowa, but with the changing of the seasons, there is one constant in Iowa – drought. The dry conditions are providing a high risk for fire right now, as evidenced by a field fire that burned uncontrolled in Runnells over the weekend.

On Tuesday, Des Moines Parks and Recreation officials kept the dry conditions in mind as they conducted prescribed burns. The crews stopped by Gray’s Lake Park. Even though it is dry, they are able to burn safely.

As far as burning our native species in our parks, it is basically a management tool that we utilize to maintain our natural areas,” said Mike Gaul, Parks Manager for Des Moines Parks and Recreation. “Many of the species have evolved with fire so we’re creating that environmental condition. A lot of species require that for germination and just prolific growing.”

The burns are well planned in advance, and a crew of 20 or so people are trained to take part.

“It begins by a burn plan that we have for each location, so we develop parameters that we need to perform our burned within,” said Gaul. “We take in wind direction, wind, speed in different environmental factors, and apply for a burn permit and then follow that process.

The permit is for air quality, which comes from Polk County. The crews do not burn the same area every year. They do stop at Gray’s Lake each spring, but they don’t burn the same areas two years in a row.

The crews do go through training sessions to learn how to safely burn patches of the park without letting the fire get out of control.