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Phragmites all fired up

Phragmites burn off White Lake Road. (click for larger version)
May 15, 2013 - Flames raged and temperatures soared as phragmites burned off White Lake Road, May 9.

The prescribed burn was part of a combined effort to fight the invasive plants, between Oakland Phragmites and Invasive Species Task Force (OPIS), City of the Village of Clarkston and Independence Township.

The reed-like plants can grow up to 15 feet tall with roots stretching 10 feet underground.

Local resident Sharon Gardner said the difference in the view of Middle Lake before and after the burn was amazing.

"Now you can actually see the lake," said Gardner.

In February, the Middle Lake beach phragmites were cut back to reduce flames for the May burn. Crews from PlantWise of Ann Arbor used drip torches to set the area ablaze, then water tanks to keep the fire under control.

The burn was the second step to rid the area of the pesky plant, said Linda Walsh Lapinski of OPIS.

"After the burn, the plant will grow new buds and then a herbicide will be sprayed to kill them," said Lapinski.

Fire risk is one of the main issues with phragmites, which also renders an area "sterile" wildlife can't shelter or forage food. Lapinski said after the phragmites are gone, wildlife will begin to return.

Phragmites are also around Deer Lake. David Mindell, owner of PlantWise, has been working to clear a stand of phragmites at the Deer Lake beach boat launch. Mindell said more work will be done this summer to restore areas eroded by phragmites.

Independence Township Fire Department was not on site when the burn began, but had a crew on standby. They arrived on scene towards the end of the burn and sprayed a smoldering utility pole.

Staff writer
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