The district, headquartered in Norton, said Monday it plans a 1,500-acre Flatwoods prescribed burn area two miles south of Coeburn, east of State Route 72, and a 5,000-acre North Fork burn west of U.S. Route 23 on Pine Mountain abutting the Virginia border with Kentucky.
The district said each burn event may take several days to complete. Residents should expect smoke to be visible during the burn periods, and for a short time after, local residents may see and smell smoke, particularly in the Pound and Crab Orchard communities of Wise County and Jenkins in Kentucky.
Prior to intitiating the burn projects, the district will issue a media advisory to notify local residents. The project areas will be closed to public access during the events, and signs will be posted notifying the public of the closures.
The U.S. Forest Service conducts prescribed burns to reduce the risk of wildfires and enhance areas for the benefit of many wildlife and fauna species. Prescribed burns are designed to mimic historic natural fire as much as possible. Some individual trees may burn, but the fire should travel primarily across the forest floor.
Prescribed burn areas will be contained by pre-prepared firebreaks and teams of experienced USFS personnel.
The USFS said the region is rapidly losing young forests, open areas and critical wildlife habitat as a result of a century's worth of fire suppression and an aging forest. For centuries, naturally occuring fire shaped forests and wildlife opportunities. The USFS said forests, wildlife and lands need fire to be healthy.
Research shows fire naturally occurred every three to 15 years in the Clinch District area. Low-intensity prescribed burns create open areas where a diverse mix of grasses, wildflowers and other plants grow and provide valuable food and cover for wildlife.
The Clinch Ranger District said the planned burns will help make the land healthier for people, water and wildlife including bear, deer, wild turkey and many migratory birds as well as many endangered species.
For more information about the prescribed burn program, contact the district at (276) 679-8370 or visit www.fs.usda.gov/gwj.