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Clinch Ranger District: Burns will Promote Wildlife and Reduce the Risk of Wildfire

Contact(s): Michelle Davailos (276) 679-8370

(02/12/2018) Norton, Va. - The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests provide habitat for thousands of species across Virginia and West Virginia, including nearly 300 threatened, endangered, sensitive and locally rare wildlife and plants.  To help preserve these and other species Forest Service fire specialists may burn the following areas:

Flatwoods – Clinch District, Wise County, East of SR 72 and 2 miles south of Coeburn VA. 1,500 acres

North Fork – Clinch District, Wise County, West of US 23 on Pine Mountain on the VA/KY state line. 5,000 acres

We are planning to conduct controlled burns in these areas between mid-February and mid-May.  Each burn may take several days to complete. We expect smoke to be visible during the burn, and for a short time after local residents may see and smell smoke, especially in Pound, Jenkins, and the Community of Crab Orchard. The smoke is expected to settle in low lying areas during the early morning.

Prior to conducting the burn, the Forest Service plans to issue a media advisory to notify local residents. The project areas will close temporarily while the burn is taking place and signs will be posted notifying the public of the closure.  Forest visitors are reminded to obey all signs and use caution when traveling in the vicinity of the prescribed burn.

Safety is our primary objective during this prescribed burn.  The fire experts assigned to this burn are highly trained and have years of experience in protecting surrounding communities, themselves, and the land they are working to restore.  Experienced fire specialists will closely monitor local weather conditions, such as wind and humidity, and make adjustments in the schedule as needed to ensure the safety of firefighters and local residents.  Prior to implementing the burn, crews constructed firebreaks to ensure the fire does not leave the burn area. 

The prescribed burn is designed to mimic historic natural fire as much as possible. Some individual trees may burn but the fire should travel mostly across the forest floor. 

We are rapidly losing young forests, open areas, and critical wildlife habitat due to 100 years of fire suppression and an aging forest.  For thousands of years, fire shaped our forests and wildlife and our lands actually need fire to be healthy. Research shows that fire naturally occurred every 3-15 years in our area.  Low intensity prescribed burns creates open areas where a diverse mix of grasses, plants, and wildflowers grow and provide valuable food and cover for wildlife.  These planned burns help to make the land healthier for people, water, and wildlife, such as bear, deer, turkey, and many migratory birds and many endangered species. 

For more information on our prescribed burn program, please contact the Clinch Ranger District at (276) 679-8370 or visit our website at www.fs.usda.gov/gwj.