on Apr 08, 2013 10:24 AM • Views 3817
Media Contact: Carolyn Rickard

RALEIGH, N.C. (April 9, 2013) —Assisted by a N.C. Forest Service youth program, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation will conduct a prescribed burn of some 500 acres in Burke and Rutherford counties this week if appropriate weather conditions occur.

The morning of the burn, a media alert will be issued.

The 500-acre prescribed burn — approximately half on South Mountains State Park and half on South Mountains Game Land — will aid in ecosystem restoration of the land, wildlife habitat improvement, and reduce brush and debris that can cause dangerous wildfires. Although the carefully planned and maintained fire will occur during the youth turkey hunting week,the only closure of game land access will be on the CCC Road along the northern boundary with the State Park, and this closure will only be for the day of the burn.

“We will do everything we can to reduce the amount of smoke to nearby residents and neighborhoods,” said Dean Simon, a forester with the Wildlife Commission. “However, people will see smoke while we are burning. Prescribed fire, though, is one of our essential, key tools in wildlife management, and many of our species and habitats need it not only to survive,but thrive.”

This tract was burned once before in 2009. A system of regular prescribed burns is advantageous to the habitat of early successional wildlife that live in the region, such as quail, rabbits and songbirds. Prescribed burns also benefit many other species — from game animals such as turkey and deer to rare plants such as white irisette and bear oak.

Fire once occurred naturally across North Carolina. Low-intensity fires burned every few years, fueled by grass, leaves, pine straw and other forest debris. They kept the forest open, allowing sunlight to penetrate to its floor and reducing buildup of dangerous fuel loads. Fire suppression altered the landscape, allowing fuels to accumulate and putting people and communities in jeopardy.

Wildlife Commission and State Parks staff carefully prepare for each fire, creating a burn plan that includes smoke-management strategies, fire-control measures, acceptable weather parameters, and equipment and personnel needs. The plan also details how the ecosystem will benefit from fire. During and after the burn, staff monitoring the landscape affected by the burn will have on hand equipment and additional resources, including emergency water tanks.

Wildlife and Park staff will be assisted by personnel from the N.C. Forest Service’s BRIDGE program. This program is a cooperative effort between the N.C. Forest Service and the N.C. Division of Prisons created to increase the state’s firefighting capabilities, while providing youth offenders valuable job training and life skills resulting in productive taxpaying citizens upon release and a significant recidivism rate reduction. The participants routinely assist with prescribed fire, in addition to firefighting duties.