Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge
P. O. Box 329
Columbia, North Carolina 27925

Contact: Howard Phillips- 252-796-3004 ext 226

News Release

February 11, 2010

Successful Prescribed Burns at Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge

Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge successfully burned over 1200 acres last week near Pungo Lake in Hyde County. The controlled or prescribed fires burned off much of the grass, ferns, and small shrubs which will improve wildlife habitat and reduce the build-up of dead plant material that can leads to large wildfires.

Prescribed fire is an important wildlife habitat management tool for national wildlife refuges in eastern North Carolina and other land managers across the State. In fact, Governor Beverly Perdue has declared February 7-13 Prescribed Fire Awareness Week, the first statewide recognition of prescribed fire and its importance in North Carolina.

Prescribed burning derived its name from the medical field. Typically, a doctor gives a patient a prescription which spells out exactly what medicine is needed, how much is needed, and how often to take the medicine to treat a particular illness.

A land manager writes a burn plan, also called a prescription, that spells out what weather conditions are needed for the burn, what time of year the burn should be ignited, and what type of fire behavior is needed to meet particular objectives for that burn unit.

According to Pocosin Lakes Fire Management Officer Vince Carver, the conditions for last week’s prescribed burns were "just what the doctor ordered. All the rain we’ve had gave us ample soil moisture so we were able to burn the surface fuels without getting much ground fire. Since the organic soils on the refuge are made of plant material, called peat, that will burn, finding the right conditions for controlled burns can be a challenge.”

Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge is partnering with several researchers to study the science of prescribed burning. Researchers are investigating conditions that contribute to ground fire (burning of organic soil), as well as the chemical make-up of the smoke and its impacts on human health. Learning more about fire will improve our use of this important land management tool.

Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge joins the N.C. Prescribed Fire Council in promoting prescribed burning this week with a display in the Partnership for the Sounds Visitor Center in Columbia, NC. For more information on prescribed fire and a list of events across the State for Prescribed Fire Awareness Week, visit www.ncprescribedfirecouncil.org. For questions about burning on the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, contact Vince Carver at vince_carver@fws.gov

Aerial view of refuge fires
Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge used a helicopter to ignite a controlled burn near Pungo Lake. Plastic spheres, similar to ping pong balls dropped from the helicopter light individual spot-fires within the burn unit.
Photo Credit - Vince Carver, USFWS.

Aerial view of large smoke plume
Smoke from a prescribed fire at Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge follows the wind and travels away from communities and other areas of concern, just as fire managers had planned.
Photo Credit - Vince Carver, USFWS.