NEBO, N.C. — The U.S. Forest Service plans to conduct two controlled burns for a total of 900 acres in the Grandfather Ranger District, Pisgah National Forest. The first burn was scheduled for Friday February 10th and the second on Monday February 13th. The agency will conduct the burns in the Adams Mountain and Crawley Branch area east of Wilson Creek off Maple Sally Road, west of Lenoir, NC. The Wilson Ridge Trail (#269) between NC-90 and Brown Mountain Beech Rd. will be closed Friday to protect public safety. Whether or not the burns are carried out on these days will depend on site-specific weather conditions and smoke modeling data.
The burns on the Grandfather District will be the first controlled burns of the year in Pisgah National Forest, on the heels of the extensive wildfires this past fall. Controlled burning is a key tool used by the U.S. Forest Service and other land management agencies to reduce fuels that can lead to catastrophic wildfires. The Grandfather District has a long history of controlled burning that has made a real difference when wildfires do occur.
Of the four significant wildfires on the Grandfather District this fall, two fell within controlled burn units – the Paddys Creek and Buck Creek fires. These areas have seen controlled burning under the Grandfather Restoration Project, a 10-year project focused around restoring fire resilient ecosystems while providing for community protection. Reduced fuels in the controlled burn areas and existing fire lines meant firefighters were able to contain these fires quickly.
For folks living around our regions forests, the wildfires this past fall have prompted many to ask, “what else can be done to protect my property?” The Bluffs of Wilson Creek, just outside the Crawley Branch prescribed fire area, is a typical western North Carolina mountain community. Just like many other communities in WNC, The Bluffs occurs in what managers call the Wildland Urban Interface – the area where houses meet the forest.
Working with the North Carolina Forest Service and Pisgah National Forest, The Bluffs was selected for wildfire mitigation under the U.S. Forest Service's Community Protection Grant Program. The Community Protection Program was established to provide funding to states to help prevent wildfires and mitigate the conditions that lead to them in high risk communities within a 10 mile radius of National Forest land. Community risk is determined by vegetation type, available vehicle access, terrain, response times for emergency personnel, and access to water sources.
Through the Community Protection Program, the N.C. Forest Service created a fire break between the community and Pisgah National Forest, clearing out brush in a 30-foot strip behind the community. Combined with the fuel reduction in the controlled burn area, this community is setting an example for wildfire risk mitigation that can be applied to communities across WNC.
The Crawley Branch controlled burn will be managed by the U.S. Forest Service and the North Carolina Forest Service, with assistance from The Nature Conservancy. Click here to learn more about restoring fire to the mountains.