PILOT MOUNTAIN — Between now and late may, N.C. State Parks and the N.C. Forest Service plan to conduct a 270-acre prescribed burn on the south and west facing slopes of Pilot Mountain, according to a statement by Matt Windsor, park superintendent for Pilot Mountain State Park.
This burn will be followed up by a later 200-acre burn on the upper north and east facing slopes of the mountain so that fuel loads are kept low on the most fire-prone portions of the park. The long-term goal is to use future controlled burns at a 5- to 10-year interval to maintain the mountain’s natural communities and ensure safety of visitors and residents.
The specific date of the burn will depend on site-specific weather conditions. As near as possible to the exact date of the burn, additional notifications will be made to residents and news media. On the exact day of the burn, residents within a one-mile radius of the mountain will be notified via reverse 911, utilizing the Surry County Communications system.
Prescribed fire does not “fireproof” the mountain, but makes any wildfire that does occur lower in intensity as compared to areas that have not burned in decades. Prescribed fire also maintains the habitat needed by many fire-adapted plants and animals that live on the mountain.
Peak wildfire season also occurs when the park is busy and full of visitors, so there is an important public safety reason to keep wildfire risk low. Pilot Mountain is one of North Carolina’s busiest parks with only only one exit road.
The burn will be contained within firelines that are cleared down to bare soil and plumbed with fire hoses. The NC Forest Service will have a fire suppression crew of Forest Service firefighters and local volunteer firefighters on site, as well as fire suppression equipment including a bulldozer and a helicopter on site throughout the burn.
On the day of the burn residents should expect to see smoke on the mountain from mid-morning to late afternoon. There may be some smoldering afterwards, and lines will be patrolled and mopped up daily until the fire is out cold.
The mountain and its trails will be closed to all use on the day of the burn. The safety of the public and firefighters is the number one priority during a controlled burn. Visitors are asked to obey signs posted at gates and trails and to stay away from burn areas. The burn area and the park will be reopened as soon as it has been determined it is safe to do so. The Yadkin River Section of the park and its Corridor Trail will remain open for use during the burn.
According to the park’s blog a second of the Ledge Springs Trail was closed briefly on Friday as 17 acres below the summit picnic area was targeted for a controlled burn between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Subscribe to the park’s prescribed fire notification blog at http://pilotmountainstatepark.tumblr.com to learn more about the park’s prescribed fire program and about plans for upcoming burns.