Bentcreek Conducts Prescribed Burn Research

Safety of the public and firefighters is the number one priority for the Forest Service.

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  • The U.S. Forest Service will conduct a 1-day prescribed fire in June or July on the Bent Creek Experimental Forest across 3 burn sites with an approximate burn area of 42 acres.

  • Scientists at Bent Creek will evaluate how prescribed fires conducted in the growing season (June-July) versus the dormant season (January- early March) affect upland hardwood forest ecosystems. The research study will compare how the timing of prescribed fire affects hardwood regeneration, herbaceous vegetation, fuel loading, and breeding bird communities.

  • There are few long-term studies on prescribed fire’s effects on oak regeneration, although fire is commonly used to reduce competition from shade-tolerant trees, and increase light levels at the forest floor, encouraging faster development of oak seedlings. The Bent Creek study includes repeated prescribed burning at approximately 3-5 year intervals, depending on weather, fuels and the availability of personnel.

  • Historically, fire was used by Native Americans and settlers to maintain an open understory, but in the 1930’s, forest fires began to be viewed as destructive, and were suppressed whenever possible.

  • Fire suppression increases wildfire risk as fuels (woody debris and shrubs) build up, and fire suppression could also be causing mixed-oak forests to convert to forests dominated by species like red maple and yellow poplar, trees that are not a significant food source for wildlife, nor a source of high-quality lumber like oaks.

  • Dr. Cathryn Greenberg, Research Ecologist and Project Leader, is available to answer specific questions about wildlife; Henry McNab, Research Forester, is available to answer specific questions about prescribed fire’s role in restoring oak ecosystems by reducing white pine regeneration.

  • Dr. Tara Keyser, Research Forester is available to answer questions about regeneration ecology of oak and other hardwood species.

  • The prescribed burn areas will be closed to the public. Residents are asked to heed the signs and stay out of the area until fire personnel approve re-entry.

  • The Forest Service is required to meet state air quality requirements and will conduct smoke modeling to reduce the possible effects of smoke emissions.

  • If nearby residents have health issues, they may need to stay in their homes with windows closed on the day of the prescribed burn. The Forest Service will do everything possible to reduce the amount of smoke emitted while still meeting the burn objectives.

  • The proper weather conditions (humidity and wind especially) are needed to effectively conduct the prescribed burn. The Forest Service will not make a final decision to conduct the burn until the day of the burn.

  • The Forest Service will have the necessary personnel and equipment on scene to implement the prescribed burn. Adequate Forest Service firefighters will be on hand. The burn will be ignited using drip torches.

  • The burn will be completed in 1 day.

  • Riva Duncan, Forest Fire Management Officer, and Patrick Scott, District Fire Management Officer, with the U.S. Forest Service National Forests of North Carolina, are planning the prescribed burn.

For additional information call: 828.667.5261