A prescribed burn is underway at a southern portion of the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge on Tuesday, February 15, per a recent update from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in North Carolina.
“Refuge fire crews are conducting a prescribed burn, burning from the Jug Handle [Bridge] to the north,” stated the USFWS in a social media update. “We’re using two marsh masters and two type 6 engines. Firing techniques will be used to help enhance the endangered black rails, and other species as well!”
Smoke will likely be visible throughout northern Hatteras Island, including the villages of Rodanthe, Waves, and Salvo. Though the burn should not affect traffic, travelers should stay vigilant when driving through Pea Island on Tuesday, and should watch for possible light smoke on N.C. Highway 12.
Prescribed burns within the refuges serve multiple purposes, depending on the time of year. Generally occurring in the spring and fall, the burns can enhance safety in case of a future wildfire, control vegetation, and create more desirable habitats for migratory birds.
One of the purposes of a late winter or springtime 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 in northern Hatteras Island’s villages.
The spring is also 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 light northeast winds under 10 mph forecast for Tuesday, the conditions are currently optimal for the operation.