A prescribed burn is underway at the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge as of Monday, March 20, per a recent update from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in North Carolina.
“Refuge fire crews will be conducting a 1600-acre prescribed burn to set back woody vegetation, improve wildlife habitat, and reduce fuel loads,” stated the USFWS in a social media update. “Drivers on [N.C. Highway 12] may see smoke—please drive safely!”
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, 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 protection against wildfires, 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 around 10 mph forecast for Monday, the conditions are currently optimal for the operation.