Restoring Fire to the Mountains

Restoring Fire to the Mountains

Southern forests are important to our health, giving us clean air and drinking water as well as many other benefits. Fire has been a part of these natural areas for thousands of years and played an important role in keeping forests healthy.

Over the years, the U.S. Forest Service has learned that putting out every fire creates a buildup of forest debris and produces more dangerous conditions.

Today, the Forest Service has a choice. The agency can manage fire on its terms or let nature take its course, potentially leading to an unmanaged, catastrophic wildfire.

That’s why the Forest Service is using an integrated, experienced and science-based prescribed burning program to restore fire to the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests. The program promotes forest health and helps reduce risks to communities.

Forest Service employees take the safety of neighbors and the health of the national forests very seriously. They understand the concerns that some residents have over prescribed burning. Prescribed burns can be unsightly at first; however, the forests will green up in a matter of six months or so. Also, escapes from prescribed burns are rare. Less than one percent of prescribed burns escape.

Overall, prescribed burns allow the agency to safely use fire on its terms. The burns act as a cleaning agent, thinning out leaves and woody debris, and making neighborhoods safer and forests healthier.

Low- to medium-intensity prescribed burns offer benefits such as:

  • Reducing woody debris and hazardous fuels that could contribute to high-severity fires.
  • Reducing the frequency of destructive fires that could threaten communities.
  • Healthier, more diverse and more resilient forests.
  • Promoting more desirable fire-tolerant native plants, such oaks that provide food for wildlife.
  • Restoring threatened plants and communities, such as table mountain pine and mountain golden heather.
  • Reducing forest pests, such as southern pine beetle, and non-native plants.

For more information:

Click on the below links to view informative documents about prescribed burning and the role of fire in Southern Appalachia:

Fire organizations:

Consortium of Appalachian Fire Managers and Scientists,

Deputy Forest Supervisor Diane Rubiaco talks with partners involved with the Grandfather Restoration
This picture was taken five months after a prescribed burn in the Dobson Knob area of the Grandfather Ranger District, Pisgah National Forest. Notice the sprouting, green vegetation after the burn. The burn reduced leaf litter and other debris, reducing the risk of a larger, more destructive fire that could threaten forest health and communities.