A prescribed fire, also known as a controlled burn, has been performed on Fort Bragg for many years.
These authorized fires take place on the installation and are carried out by a team of experts from the Wildland Fire Program.
The North Carolina General Assembly recognized the importance of prescribed burning with the NC Prescribed Burning Act, established on January 1, 2000.
These intentionally set fires are conducted from December to June.
Approximately one-third of the installation is burned during the growing season. From December to June over 160,000 acres of land are ignited by fire.
Burnings focus on the longleaf pine ecosystem and can be beneficial in many ways.
There are many different aspects on why these practices take place: to reduce fuel loads, manage important habitats, assist with wildlife management and to benefit military training.
Burns are also federally required in support of threatened species, such as the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker. This species plays a vital role when it comes to the Fort Bragg ecosystem.
They are primary cavity nesters, meaning they are responsible for construction of cavities located in trees where birds nest, lay eggs or raise their young.
They are considered an important key species because use of their cavities by animals contributes to the species richness of the pine forest.
These fires are not only important to animals and the environment, but they are also vital to military training.
“A lot of the plants and animals have adapted … So they can’t survive or be viable without fire. We use fire to help for training and to protect a lot of resources for training … the Drop Zones we burn to try and eliminate a lot of hard wood encroachment,” said Rodney Fleming, director of Forestry Branch.
Additionally, when it comes to the military training aspect of the fires, it also helps open up different landscapes, improves visibility for training missions and enhances access to certain training sites.
Many of Fort Bragg’s plants and animals rely on fire to maintain their habitats. This reliance comes from a habitat that has burned frequently for thousands of years, according to the Sothern Fire Exchange 2012 to 2015 fact sheet.
The Forestry Branch is gearing up for another successful season this year, and plans to set prescribed fires on approximately 56,000 acres across the installation.
People who encounter fires on the installation most likely need not be alarmed. If a member of the Forestry Branch is present monitoring the fire it is likely a prescribed burn.
However, if a person does not see any professionals in the area, or if they are unsure about the fire, they can call 9-1-1 or contact the Forestry Branch at 396-2510.