News Release

Students Conduct Prescribed Burn at Pankratz Prairie

By Elizabeth Tollefson on
Monday, October 2, 2017

Assistant Professor Matt Simmons and his students heated things up during their first lab of the semester. Simmons had his Habitat Restoration class out to the Pankratz Prairie area near Crookston for a prescribed burn. Students at Pankratz

“Prescribed” burning is a burn conducted under a certain set of environmental conditions to achieve a specific goal. Typically prairies are burned about every four years to rejuvenate the vegetation and enhance wildlife habitat.

In preparation for the prescribed burn, last spring students completed class room instruction on techniques of fire management including control techniques as practiced by agencies such as the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service. This training results in students earning certifications they can add to their resumes. Several U of M Crookston graduates battled forest fires in the West this summer.

Desariah Santillanez with Dan SvedarskyOne student on the burn was Desariah Santillanez, a junior majoring in natural resources from Bellvue, Colo., “As I was lighting with the drip torch, I thought on how far I have come from my past work with wild fires to working prescribed burns--all thanks to the Agriculture and Natural Resources Department, she says.” Santillanez has worked the past 2 summers on wild fire suppression in California. Another student was Zachary Lingl, a senior majoring in natural resources from New Ulm, Minn., who remarked, “Taking part in the burn was a great experience and I learned a lot about fires and proper burning tactics.”

Fire training is coordinated at the U of M Crookston by Tom Feiro, a natural resources staff member and environmental health safety specialist. Feiro, along with Professor Dan Svedarsky, headed up the prescribed burn at Pankratz where a variety of equipment and techniques were demonstrated to the students as well as proper safety procedures.

Footage from a drone gave students a dramatic bird’s eye view of the burn. The drone, operated by Tim Baker a 2013 U of M Crookston graduate who majored in natural resources. He is currently pursuing a graduate degree while working at the Northwest Research and Outreach Center under the direction of Professor Ian MacRae.

For more information, contact Matt Simmons at 218-281-8141 (  For a video clip of the prescribed burn, see:

The University of Minnesota Crookston now delivers 34 bachelor's degree programs, 22 minors, and 40 areas of emphasis on campus as well as 14 degree programs entirely online.  These degrees are offered in the areas of agriculture and natural resources; business; liberal arts and education; and math, science and technology.  With an enrollment of 1,800 undergraduates from more than 20 countries and 40 states, the Crookston campus offers a supportive, close-knit atmosphere that leads to a prestigious University of Minnesota degree.  "Small Campus. Big Degree."  To learn more, visit


Elizabeth Tollefson

University Relations


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