A prescribed burn on a portion of the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge is scheduled for Tuesday, March 27, provided that weather conditions cooperate.
“As long as the conditions stay as forecast, a burn is currently planned for the southern edge of the refuge,” said Wildlife Refuge Specialist and Assistant Manager Art Beyer.
The prescribed burn will be on the southern in of the refuge, adjacent to Rodanthe, and ending far south of New Inlet, so visits to the refuge should not be impacted.
The burn is slated to be a small one, lasting just a few hours or half a day. “It won’t take long at all, and it is not planned to be a very large fire,” said Beyer.
Prescribed burns within the refuges serve multiple purposes, depending on the time of year. Generally occurring in the spring and the fall, the burns actually enhance safety in case of a wildfire, controls vegetation, and creates more desirable habitats for migratory birds.
One of the primary purposes of Tuesday’s burn is to create a “safe zone” so that if a wildfire occurs and moves south, there is a break in the landscape that will give firefighters time to stop the wildfire before it impacts residences and structures.
But the prescribed fire will also enhance the local habitat for a number of migrating birds that call the area a temporary home, clearing out potentially invasive vegetation, and promoting fresh green growth.
“It’s a wonderful tool, if the conditions are right, and it can be done safely,” said Beyer.
Spring is an ideal time to do the prescribed burns, as the northeastern wind direction ensures that the fire and smoke generally stays off of the highway. With that being said, travelers should stay vigilant when driving through Pea Island on Tuesday – assuming conditions allow the burn to occur – and should watch for smoke on N.C. Highway 12.