Thriving on Fire: Burns Bring Life to the Pines
Prescribed — or controlled — burning is a regular practice around here, especially this time of year before warmer temperatures and stronger winds kick in. The burns help protect and promote the overall health of North Carolina ecosystems. But conducting a burn is more complicated than just picking a site, selecting a day and then lighting a match. “There is a complexity to it,” said Moore County forest ranger Billie Lewis. “It is a very involved process.” Prescribed burns reduce the buildup of vegetation that could fuel a wildfire. In addition, many plants and animals need fire to thrive. Prescribed burns can reduce competition among plants, release seeds, and add nutrients to benefit species. Prescribed burning also promotes beneficial plant species that help attract wildlife and control disease, understory trees and fire-resistant species. Without regular orderly burning, vegetation buildup can lead to large uncontrolled fires that endanger people and property. Dense undergrowth that can thrive without regular burning can choke out other species and make walking through natural forests more difficult. And fire is a more environmentally compatible management tool than herbicides or heavy machinery. Staff photographer Hannah Sharpe recently spent time on the Walthour-Moss Foundation land documenting the process -- and art -- of a controlled burn.