Three local fire companies each received $1,000 by participating in a prescribed burn on the Blue Mountain near Palmerton.

They are the Palmerton Fire Company, Bowmanstown Fire Company, and East Penn Fire Company.

When the Lehigh Gap Nature Center wanted to use the prescribed burn to destroy the birch trees and butterfly bush that take up the metals in the soil of the Kittatinny Ridge, Director Dan Kunkle asked CBS Operations, the responsible party for the cleanup on the mountain, if local fire companies could be used instead of paying a professional fire suppression company.

Wes Keller, a forestry specialist with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, suggested the companies which would be invited are those who would respond first if there were an uncontrolled fire.

That meant the fire companies from Palmerton, Bowmanstown, and East Penn Township.

At the time of the invitation, Kunkle said he would try to get them donations, but it was no sure thing. However, it would give the fire companies experience in a fire at the front end rather than after one is burning.

Kunkle asked CBS to make a donation to the fire companies since it was saving the money with the cost of regular suppression. On May 1 each of the companies was given a donation of $1,000.

Where the grass, which does not take up the metals, was heavy the fire accomplished what was hoped for, and killed the birch and butterfly bush. Where growth was lighter, some survived.

The leaves fall and redeposit the metals on top of the soil which has a thin organic layer produced by the die-back of the grass each fall. The leaves are eaten by animals and become part of the food chain.

The direction and distance of smoke drift and its toxicity may take a couple months to determine. The firemen were given special masks from the X Caper Company, which cost $50 each, and which they thought were very effective.

"You acted like a team that has worked together for years. I know what it's like to run a volunteer organization," said Kunkle to the fire company representatives before passing out the checks.