Outside the Fire…Justin Penick Acorn Forestry

Acorn Forestry is a full service forestry company specializing in reforestation, wildland firefighting, forest management and mid-rotation services in Lufkin, Texas. All services are provided to private landowners, consultants and companies with an emphasis on quality and accountability.  Basically, they are experts in prescribed burning!  I first met owner/operator Justin Penick at the Texas Department of Agriculture Prescribed Burn Board meeting and instantly respected him for his many talents and abilities.  Justin is one of the very best in the state and in the nation when it comes to successfully implementing a prescribed burn.  It is a pleasure working and learning from Justin and check out his website www.acornforestry.net for more information!

How did you get introduced to fire? I was first introduced to fire during the summer at a Boy Scout camp in Louisiana. I was 16 or so and helped direct about 100 Boy Scouts with flappers and rakes to control what ended up being about a 40 acre wildfire. The most memorable impact it had on me was how we were able to create line with the rakes and effectively use fire to fight fire. That experience helped shape my opinion of prescribed burning and sent me down a path that I’m still on today.

How early do you start planning for a prescribed burn? Typically, we begin the planning of an actual Rx burn about two months prior to ignition. The time frame in all honesty is mostly controlled by our customer’s own schedule. We work to satisfy their desired schedule as best as possible. For management purposes in settings with large blocks of land and rotating timber stands we know up to 15 years out what the proposed burn rotation and schedule would be.

What’s most unique about a post-fire environment? The uniqueness and beauty of a post fire environment in my opinion is the recovery rate of desired grasses and forbes. The fire adaptive species in our ecosystem thrive after even the most catastrophic of wildfires or the mildest of Rx burns. It’s truly amazing.

In your opinion, what makes a successful fire? The most important thing for us to have a successful burn is a safe burn. We have a very low tolerance for escapes that cause damage, or smoke that impacts neighbors or traffic in a serious way. With Rx burning we generally have another opportunity to do better in regards to specific results of the fire but you don’t get do-overs in damage or injury.

Who or what would you never burn without? Under no circumstances would I ever burn without the appropriate fire suppression equipment. The appropriate equipment varies from one ecosystem type to another but the lack of that equipment entirely is inexcusable.

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