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Prescribed Burn Program Begins at William B. Umstead State Park

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Michael F. Easley, Governor
William G. Ross, Jr., Secretary

Release Note: 
Charlie Peek
Release Date: 
Monday, January 21, 2008

Prescribed Burn Program Begins at William B. Umstead State Park

RALEIGH -- The N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation will start a prescribed burn program at William B. Umstead State Park in coming weeks. On days when weather conditions meet established criteria, field staff will conduct prescribed burns on selected small tracts within the 5,598-acre park.

The prescribed burns are designed to reduce the chance of uncontrolled wildfires by removing fine fuels on or near the ground and to enhance natural habitats.

'A succession of intense storms in the past decade have dramatically increased the amount of potential fuel for wildfires at Umstead,' Park Superintendent Scott Letchworth said. 'Besides the risk to visitors and property, smoke from uncontrolled fire could pose a major hazard because of the park's location near major highways and Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Prescribed burns are a proven way to gradually reduce the wildfire risk.'

The fire management plan calls for burns to be conducted on tracts ranging from five acres to 45 acres, primarily in the park's interior. Burns will be conducted sporadically, as conditions permit, through the end of March.

A prescribed burn is a controlled fire with low-intensity flames that reach only a few feet high. Such burns are conducted only when weather conditions fall within parameters written into a fire management plan. The burns are conducted near mid-day and at Umstead, would normally last between one hour and two hours. The timing, along with extensive mop-up operations, allows most of the smoke associated with the burn to dissipate quickly.

This method of forest management has been successfully introduced in 20 of the division's 35 state parks.

'Another important objective of prescribed burning at Umstead is to enhance natural areas and wildlife habitat,' Letchworth said. 'We hope to establish a long-term program of fire management and maintain the park's mix of pine and hardwood forest.'

Prescribed burns rejuvenate forest ecosystems, transforming plant material to basic elements and fertilizing the soil. In addition, many plant species depend on the open space provided by fire, which in turn, provides more diverse food sources and habitat for wildlife.