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Prescribed fire to bring smoky skies

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BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Nash County residents may see large billows of smoke in the northern sky over the next few weeks.

While the fumes may look ominous, it's actually a good thing, according to state officials.

The N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation is conducting a planned burn on 240 acres of land inside Summit Loop Trail to the summit of Medoc Mountain in the state park in Halifax County.

The park is 30 miles from Rocky Mount, but smoke from the burn will be visible in much of Nash County, according to state park officials.

Smoke and even fires will be more visible the closer someone gets to Medoc Mountain State Park. Folks shouldn't be alarmed — it's all part of a plan to improve the ecosystem and reduce hazardous forest fuels, said state parks spokeswoman Katie Hall.

Specific dates of the burns will depend on local weather conditions. The park is working with the N.C. Forest Service to manage the burn, said State Park Superintendent Joel Jakubowski.

During the days of the burn, park visitors will not be able to access the Summit Loop Trail or the picnic area field.

Prescribed burns are used as a resource management tool in many locations by the state parks system. Some plant communities and animal species rely on periodic fires for their existence.

Prescribed fire re-introduces valuable nutrients to the soil, improving the forest ecosystem. The prescribed burns also reduce the amount of potential wildfire fuel, leaf clutter, and help protect a park’s resources and neighboring landowners if lightning, arson or carelessness sparks a wildfire.

In order to minimize smoke and assure the fire is controlled, the low-intensity, prescribed burn will only be carried out under the strictly defined weather conditions of a fire-management plan. Generally, a prescribed burn will begin in late morning and end by mid-afternoon, Hall said.

North Carolina State Parks manages more than 234,000 acres of iconic landscape within North Carolina’s state parks, state recreation areas and state natural areas.

The department administers the N.C Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, including its local grants program, as well as a state trails program, North Carolina Natural and Scenic Rivers and more, all with a mission dedicated to conservation, recreation and education.

More than 19 million people visit state parks annually.

For more information call the Medoc Mountain State Park office at 252-586-6588.

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