First Posted: 1/15/2009
PILOT MOUNTAIN Smoke rising from the summit of Pilot Mountain in the coming months should not be cause for alarm.
Park officials will begin having prescribed burns as early as next week to try to reduce the amount of fuel, such as leaves and other debris on the forest floor, on the mountain in case of a fire. The prescribed burn season will last until May and will focus on small areas at a time.
Janet Pearson, the park ranger in charge of the burns, hopes the first two small area burns will take place next week but that depends on the weather. They will consist of a one-tenth of an acre unit and a two-tenths of an acre unit.
There will be a bare oak burn, which will focus on the small shrubs in the area that need to get sunlight but are being overshadowed. There will also be a table mountain pine burn. The pine cones from these trees need heat to open and release the seeds. The heat from the fire will help that process along.
It will help to reduce the fuels so if we did have a fire it wouldnt spread as fast and wouldnt be as hot. It wont be as detrimental to the area, said Pearson.
According to Pearson, there are up to four inches of pine litter in some areas of the park and small plants buried under the litter are not able to receive enough sunlight and nutrients to grow. The prescribed burn will hopefully open that up a little. It will also help the blackberries, honey suckle, lady slippers and irises that grow on the mountain to flourish.
We could have new species grow that we have not seen in 20 years, she said.
There also will be other burns throughout the season, but those two areas are the top priority. The park staff has been trying to get the right kind of weather as well as the right number of staff members together to have a prescribed burn for the past few years.
Pearson is hoping to let as many people know about the burn season as possible to reduce the number of calls to 911 from people seeing smoke on the mountain. She appreciates the people who call about the mountain as they would rather be safe than sorry, but hopes to prevent panic by getting the word out early.
We dont want them getting upset, she said of people who pass Pilot Mountain every day and are on the look out for danger.
She is confident that enough people are aware of the situation and ready to help if anything should get out of control. She has contacted Pilot Knob Volunteer Fire Department, Surry County Emergency Services, John Shelton, director of Surry County Emergency Services, and the North Carolina Fire Service Ranger Brian Elam.
Prescribed burns should take place in the mornings and the summit should reopen by the afternoon, around 3 p.m. Anyone wishing to visit the park can call the park office at 336-325-2355 to see when the park will be open.
Contact Morgan Wall at [email protected] or 719-1929.