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Burning takes place at the old landfill park

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The smoke crept over the grass, floating above the ground like a ghostly apparition. With the slightest change of wind, the smoke stood up and obscured the sun whirling like a tornado. Nearby, people stood in bright yellow overcoats and face masks, carefully watching the grass burn.

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Somerset Fire/Rescue, along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, did a controlled burn of 29 acres at the site of the old Somerset landfill on Friday, April 9.

Travis Belisle, chief of Somerset Fire/Rescue, said that this was the first time his department had been involved in a controlled burn. Things went well enough that they were able to help the USFWS with another 30-acre burn later that day near Bass Lake.

"We have been invited to assist USFWS whenever we are available throughout the season," Belisle said. "We are looking to become more involved and hopefully we can offer the services at a cost/donation in the future to the residents."

The burn was part of an overall plan to restore the old landfill site to its original prairie grassland state. The land is owned jointly by the Village of Somerset and the Township of Somerset.

Lenny Germain, town supervisor, has been helping organize the effort between the town and village and the USFWS. He said the burning area was actually expanded to burn off the brush.

"They had already planned to burn 14 acres," Germain said, "but they found more prairie remnants out farther back so they wanted to run the fire throughout."

The plans do call for the perimeter treeline to remain and the original oak trees. The goal is to make the park a habitat for wildlife and native prairie land. People will still be allowed to hunt in season on the property.

The next step of the process will be to seed the area, although another burn may be necessary next year.

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