PILOT MOUNTAIN — Passers-by at Pilot Mountain State Park shouldn’t necessarily be alarmed if they see fire on the mountain Wednesday, Feb. 1, or during the remainder of the week.
Chances are, any smoke and flames visible will only be the result of prescribed burns at the park, planned by the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation to achieve forest-management objectives.
The burn will occur on 30 to 40 acres at a time depending on conditions, according to the Pilot Mountain State Park Prescribed Fire Information Page, totaling 140 acres over the next week. As a result the Grindstone trail will be closed for the duration of the burn.
The burning on Wednesday should take place between the hours of 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., according to Park Superintendent Matt Windsor.
The specific dates of the remaining prescribed burns will depend on local weather conditions, according to Windsor.
The smoke will be visible from US 52. Signs will be placed at each exit along the highway for the park stating, “prescribed fire do not report.”
Although a prescribed burn got out of control and scorched more than 800 acres at Pilot Mountain State Park in November 2012, forestry officials consider the controlled fires to be important tools overall.
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 blazes 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, officials say. The controlled burns are used as a resource-management tool in many locations by the state parks system.
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, officials say.