PILOT MOUNTAIN — Anyone in the vicinity of Pilot Mountain State Park who happens to see smoke there Thursday shouldn’t be alarmed, as this will be due to a controlled burn that also will require closing a trail at the park.
Park personnel periodically conduct prescribed burns, with the latest one to get under way Thursday around mid-morning — if weather conditions permit — and last until late afternoon.
The operation will be focused on a 65-acre section of the mountain, according to Park Superintendent Matt Windsor.
Windsor added that the burn will occur above the family campground and below the main park road.
Traffic could be restricted on the park road above the campground for the duration of the burn, and the Grindstone Trail will be closed during the operation.
All other trails and facilities are to remain open and will be accessible from the park office at the bottom of the mountain.
Some smoldering could continue after the burn, which Windsor says is normal.
For the benefit of passersby, U.S. 52 will have signage in the northbound and southbound lanes stating “prescribed fire — do not report” for the duration of the burn.
Prescribed burns are employed as a resource-management tool in many locations of the state parks system. The burns are 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 purpose of the latest burn is for fuel reduction in the event of an uphill escaped fire from the family campground and restoration of pitch pine and chestnut oak, fire-adapted forest types found on the mountain.
Burns occur within a strict set of weather and other parameters. This includes winds being of a certain velocity to transport smoke from the scene and prevent it from possibly obscuring travel on nearby roads such as U.S. 52.