Mother Nature was surprisingly cooperative for Tuesday morning's controlled fire at .
Unlike many fires, this one was no accident.
In fact, officials from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) waited to hold the "prescribed burn" until a forecast had moderate winds from the Northwest, which would allow smoke to blow over Long Island Sound.
The burn is designed to eliminate leaf litter and kill invasive plant species down to their roots. The goal is to give native species a chance to grow and thrive in nitrogen-rich soil.
The fire was long in the making. The , the DEEP and the Connecticut Audubon Society all worked together, garnering nods of approval from nearby residents.
"Our professional science master's students visited the site numerous times to take soil samples and measure leaf litter depth," Jennifer Mattei, a science professor at Sacred Heart University, said on-site Tuesday. She described Milford Point as the reference site.
"Like Milford, Stratford Point should include bald patches where loose sand allows rare insects and birds like piping plover and terns to breed."
The morning began with a safety briefing followed by a walk-through of areas where the prescribed burn would take place. Along the way, firefighters and volunteers took precautions to spare a sapling prickly pear, which is listed by the state as a species of concern.
FROM SHOOTING RANGE TO PROTECTED ECOSYSTEM
The 28 acres of land that comprise Stratford Point were once home to Remington Gun Club.
From the 1920s until the 1980s, gun club members shot skeet and the site became toxic from all the lead. Waterfowl and other wildlife were ingesting the lead. Not only was the coast eroding -- the shoreline receded by 100 feet over the last decade -- but portions of salt marsh had to be removed to remediate the lead.
The good news is that after years of neglect and coastal deterioration, the point is now owned by DuPont Corporation, who oversaw and funded extensive cleanup and, in 2001, protected the property forever with a conservation easement. As a result, the site will never be developed. It is open to the public and draws birders year-round.
MORE GOOD NEWS FOR NATIVE VEGETATION
The Connecticut Audubon Society, in conjunction with Sacred Heart University's environmental science program, has rebuilt the dunes and overseen the addition of 36,000 beach grass and switch grass plants.
"What'll regenerate after the fire should be native vegetation," said Tom Anderson of the Connecticut Audubon Society. "If we get a warm week in the next month or so you'll see green very quickly."
Halfway through the burn, a bald eagle appeared in the sky as if to show its approval. Between the mild temperature, blue sky, and winds from the Northwest, the plans unfolded without a hitch.
"It's a perfect day," said DEEP information officer Ralph Scarpino, admiring the blue sky and black smouldering ground at his feet. "Just like a work of art."