A prescribed burn of 766 acres is underway at the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge as of Thursday afternoon, February 25, per a recent update from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in North Carolina.
“Test fire performed well on the [Pea Island Refuge], so we are moving into the prescribed burning,” stated the USFWS in a social media update. “Smoke is behaving, due to appropriate wind direction. You’ll see smoke, but it shouldn’t affect driving, unless there’s an unpredicted wind shift!”
The burn is taking place in between N.C. Highway 12 and the Pamlico Sound. Though the burn should not affect traffic, travelers should stay vigilant when driving through Pea Island on Thursday, 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 primary purposes of a springtime burn is typically 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.
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 north-northeast winds under 10 mph forecast, the conditions are fairly optimal for the operation, however, the damp weather is making the endeavor more challenging than normal.