Prescribed burns planned at Pilot Mountain State Park


RALEIGH – The N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation plans to conduct at least two prescribed burns at Pilot Mountain State Park during the next 90 days.

A prescribed burn is when a low-intensity fire applied under strictly defined weather conditions is used to achieve forest management objectives in ecosystems that evolved with recurring fire and are dependent on controlled fires for maintenance. Prescribed burns can be used to prepare sites for replanting, reduce the risk of wildfires, control insects and diseases, and increase the productivity of a forest. Prescribed burns are used as a resource management tool in many locations by the state parks system.

According to Pilot Mountain State Park Superintendent Matt Windsor, the specific dates of the prescribed burns will depend on local weather conditions.

One prescribed burn will be conducted on 65 acres near the park’s family campground in September, and will require closing the Grindstone Trail during the event. Another prescribed burn will be on 55 acres at the park’s north river section, likely in mid-November. No trails will be affected or closed during this prescribed burn. Both prescribed burn units are adjacent to previously burned areas and are contained within hard fire lines consisting of roads or cleared firebreaks.

Thus far in 2015, about 370 acres at Pilot Mountain State Park have undergone prescribed burns to restore wildlife habitat and reduce wildfire risk. Several tree species in the park, such as pitch pine, table mountain pine and bear oak are highly fire adapted, regionally uncommon and need a frequent fire regime to survive and reproduce. Park staff members have also assisted in a research project with Salem College on the park’s fire history by studying fire scars preserved in tree rings. Fires burned on Pilot Mountain about every five years until the 1940s, when decades of fire suppression began.

In order to minimize smoke and assure the fire is controlled, the low-intensity, prescribed burns will only be carried out under strictly defined weather conditions of a fire management plan. On the selected day, the burn will begin in the late morning and will likely end by mid-afternoon. Signs alerting motorists of a burn event will be posted on U.S. Hwy. 52.

Maps of the burn units and other information can be found on the park’s Tumblr page at: http://pilotmountainstatepark.tumblr.com/rss. For more information, contact the park office at 336-325-2355.

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