‘An impressive cloud’

Controlled burn preps for new forest growth

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Matt Gordon, assistant county ranger with the North Carolina Forest Service, takes extra fuel to the crew behind the lines of a controlled burn Thursday afternoon west of Rockingham.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Matt Gordon, assistant county ranger with the North Carolina Forest Service, takes extra fuel to the crew behind the lines of a controlled burn Thursday afternoon west of Rockingham.

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

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ROCKINGHAM — By and large, the staff at the North Carolina Forest Service works behind the scenes, or in the woods, and away from prying eyes.

On Thursday afternoon, however, they — or at least their work — became the center of attention.

Matt Gordon, assistant county ranger, and six others managed a controlled, or prescribed, burn on 78 acres of the Wall Family Trust on Dave Kings Road, located 0.4 miles east of Cartledge Creek Road and 3 miles north of Highway 74 Business. The area is adjacent to the former Buddy’s Place, a local beer joint.

Dave Kings Road is an area that might see 20 cars a day, Gordon said, but that changed shortly before 3 p.m. As the first major smoke plume zoomed skyward, all eyes turned that direction as the smoke could be seen at least as far away as Hamlet.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com One of two equipment operators patrol the perimeter of the controlled burn to ensure the fire remains inside its intended boundaries.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
One of two equipment operators patrol the perimeter of the controlled burn to ensure the fire remains inside its intended boundaries.

It was, as one Forest Service worker called it, “an impressive cloud.”

And a smart one, Gordon said. Richmond County ranks first among North Carolina’s 100 counties in wildfires. Proper land management, including controlled burns, helps prevent unplanned, out-of-control forest fires and sparks growth in a safe, responsible manner.

Gordon recently returned from the west coast fighting wildfires. It’s easier, Gordon said, to fight them when you know where they’re going.

Once Forest Service staff prepped the site, the burn took a single afternoon. Two staff members operated bulldozers to ensure the fire lines didn’t get beyond their designated boundaries. They patrolled the perimeter, in thick smoke, looking for “spot overs,” or locations the fire went beyond their intended limits.

Gordon said sometime between November and January, the 78 acres will be planted with new Long Leaf Pine. In a cost-share program with property owners, Gordon said the state splits the cost of the work — clearing, burning and replanting — with the property owner. The exact percentages can vary depending on the state or federal program utilized.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com A North Carolina Forest Service worker lights the fire line with a squeeze of his thumb.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
A North Carolina Forest Service worker lights the fire line with a squeeze of his thumb.

 

 

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