If you live in east Columbus, in the general vicinity of Muscogee Technology Park, be aware that smoke might get in your eyes this month.
The city, working with the Development Authority of Columbus, plans a prescribed — or controlled — burn of about 150 acres inside the business park starting at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Brian Sillitto, senior vice president of economic development, said Monday.
The targeted site this week is just east of Schatulga and Forrest roads, as well as Corporate Ridge Parkway, according to a map.
The area being set afire is about 10 percent of Muscogee Technology Park’s 1,500 acres. The park is located near where Macon Road merges into U.S. Highway 80. Its tenants include BlueCross and BlueShield of Georgia, Pratt & Whitney, NCR, FedEx Ground, MDV, Menlo and Path-Tec.
The burns are required as part of an agreement between the federal government — the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — and the Development Authority as part of the 1999 property exchange between Fort Benning and the city. At that time, Columbus gained land for economic development, while the military picked up more ground upon which to train its soldiers.
Wednesday’s prescribed burn likely will be the first of several in Muscogee Technology Park by March 1, the Development Authority said. They are designed to eliminate overgrown vegetation, which in turn reduces the odds for a wildfire flaring up during the hotter, drier summer months. Lightning is one of the common sparks for such fires.
Typically, the controlled fires are started when wind is blowing away from populated areas, including homes and businesses. Humidity levels are taken into consideration as well. The Georgia Forestry Commission and Fox Land & Water will handle the burns.
“While this activity will achieve many desired objectives, it nevertheless produces smoke that may cause reduced visibility and other potential issues,” the authority said in a release.
It was about this time a year ago that the city and authority conducted a burn in the business park. Fort Benning typically does the same thing each year on portions of its 182,000 acres, with the installation’s burn program often starting in the spring and running into the summer months.