The grass is on fire and smoke in the air; should it be there

16 Jan 2013 | LCpl. Joshua W. Grant

There are thousands of species of endangered plants and animals spanning the globe, and they all need protecting. MCB Camp Lejeune does its part to protect its indigenous endangered species with prescribed burns.

Some endangered species need cold snowy environments to thrive but some need lush open areas, and prescribed burns create open those habitats in otherwise lush forested areas on base. Spanning from January to August, MCB Camp Lejeune’s burn period targets high priority areas, reducing excess flammable material, decreasing the possibility of wildfires and clearing underbrush.

Prescribed fires are often not lit during April and May because it is detrimental to the habitat, said Kyle Avesing, a forester fire management specialist with the Environmental Management Division.

“Everything’s on a burn rotation,” said Avesing. “We make sure to burn every three to four years. It keeps the habitat healthy and reduces flammable underbrush.”

We do no excess cutting, and the burns only take place in areas where it is necessary, explained Avesing.

Avesing stated all the prescribed burns done on base are marked by signs to ensure the public is aware and understand it is not a wildfire.

“If you see smoke, do not be alarmed,” said Avesing. “If signs are not seen, however, the public should contact 911.”

Off base there are many partners and outside agencies also conducting prescribed burns, so if traveling, check for signs before contacting emergency services, added Avesing.

Many people see the fires and believe it harms the environment, but prescribed fires often enrich and protect habitats for many plants and animals.

“It helps deer and turkey move around, but our endangered species also benefit,” said Avesing. “The burns open up space for our endangered plants to grow. Also the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker needs an open park-like area to thrive and the prescribed burns give provide it.”

The public can mistake prescribed fires for wildfires and although they often seem damaging, prescribed fires are contained and allow wildlife to thrive.