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In the last month, smoke has been seen and smelled because of prescribed burns at Bladen Lakes State Forest and other areas across the state.

In Bladen County, more than 1,100 acres of forestland has been treated with prescribed burning on state and private lands since the beginning of January, with over 650 acres on Bladen Lakes State Forest alone, according to the N.C. Forest Service. The burns include two landing strips to prevent any potential wildfire from military training exercises conducted on the forest.

The N.C. Forest Service and its partners have been conducting prescribed burns to reduce understory forest fuels such as fallen leaves, sticks and other natural debris, to help prevent destructive wildfires like the ones that made headlines in California late last year.

“The recent rains have provided us the opportunity to burn on sites that are typically drier,” said Hans Rohr, who is Bladen Lakes Forest supervisor. “If it’s too dry you run the risk of burning the organic soils typical in this area. The burning of organic soil, which is often referred to as groundfire, can cause severe smoke problems that may linger for weeks. Burning under the current wetter conditions allows us to burn safely, and not only prevent wildfires, but improve the health of the forest and wildlife habitat.”

Prescribed fires are planned events that require careful preparation. Fire managers develop detailed burning plans weeks or months in advance that outline what weather parameters, personnel and resources are needed to safely achieve the objectives of the prescribed burn. Using advanced computer models, fire managers try to anticipate potential problems fromsmoke, to reduce or eliminate negative impacts to nearby communities. If the weather conditions or computer models indicate that there could be problems, managers won’t conduct the prescribed burn.

To learn more about prescribed burning and forest management opportunities, contact your local N.C. Forest Service county ranger or visit ncforestservice.gov and follow the links under the “Programs and Services” tab to “Managing your forest.”

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