CONNELLY SPRINGS, N.C. (Feb. 23, 2012) — Assisted by a N.C. Forest Service BRIDGE program, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation will conduct a prescribed burn of some 1,600 acres in Burke and Rutherford counties during the month of March when appropriate weather conditions occur.
The morning of the burn, a media alert will be issued.
The prescribed burn of 631 acres on South Mountains State Park and 1,007 acres 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. The carefully planned and maintained fire could last two to three days.
“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 to not only survive, but thrive.”
Portions of the tract to be burned have never been treated with prescribed fire. Some sections have been burned once or twice before. A system of regular prescribed burns is advantageous to the habitat of early successional wildlife that live in the region, such as quail, rabbits, songbirds, and many other species. Controlled burns also benefit many plant species, including 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 system staff carefully prepare for each fire, creating a burn plan that includes smoke-management strategies, fire-control measures, acceptable weather parameters, equipment and personnel needs. The plan also details how the ecosystem will benefit from fire. During the burn, staff and equipment, including emergency water tanks, will be on hand 24 hours a day to monitor the landscape.
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.