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Prescribed burn program resuming in Hitchcock Woods this December

December 17, 2018

The Hitchcock Woods Foundation is resuming its prescribed burning program in December.

Prescribed burns will be conducted over the next several months in various areas of the Woods as favorable weather conditions permit. Like forest thinning, prescribed burning is a management tool used to maintain the ecological health of the Woods and reduce the risk of wildfire, according to a news release from Woods Superintendent Bennett Tucker.

Prescribed burning is one of the most important tools used today to manage forests.

“We conduct burns in the Woods for several different reasons, not only for hazard reduction, but also to benefit the flora and fauna of a longleaf pine ecosystem,” Tucker said.

Without prescribed burns, fuel (grasses, pine needles, leaves, brush, and fallen trees) can accumulate, potentially leading to accidental fires that are more intense, destructive, and harder to control.

Regular prescribed burning of understory plants also enhances wildlife habitat while producing more nutrient rich soil for plants, and promoting the production of flowers, seeds and fruit, according to the release.

As a certified prescribed fire manager, Tucker has the expertise and experience to conduct prescribed burns safely and effectively. He has also been a volunteer firefighter for 15 years, including 14 years of experience with Aiken Department of Public Safety.

The Hitchcock Woods Foundation also has a prescribed fire management team, whose members step in as burn crew to assist on days that we conduct our prescribed burns.

“As certified prescribed fire managers, we abide by smoke management guidelines established by the EPA, the South Carolina Forestry Commission and DHEC to ensure adequate smoke dispersal,” Tucker said.

Prescribed burn areas are prepared ahead of time with firebreaks. Tractors and a brush fire truck are put in place to deal with contingencies. Public safety also patrols the perimeter of the Woods to watch for any smoke accumulation on public roads.

While prescribed burning policy enhancements in recent years have reduced smoke effects in the community, residents are asked to be advised that they may notice some smoke, or just the smell of smoke, coming from Hitchcock Woods.

Signs will be posted at formal entrances to the Woods where prescribed burning activities are taking place and on the Hitchcock Woods Foundation’s Facebook page.

For more information about prescribed burns or the management of Hitchcock Woods, visit www.hitchcockwoods.org.

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