“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Pinnacle in Surry County, North Carolina — The American South (South Atlantic)

Prescribed Fire

At Pilot Mountain State Park

Prescribed Fire Marker image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, August 21, 2014
1. Prescribed Fire Marker
Inscription. Fire! The very word conjures up images of huge flames rushing through forests destroying everything in their path, animals running to escape the heat and flames. Yet in nature, there’s much more to the story of fire. Fire has played an important role in our natural history.

Prior to European settlement, occasional fires were an integral part of many ecosystems and native plants and animals have adapted to their occurrence. European settlers feared fires however, and total fire suppression became the goal. Fire suppression efforts continued through the years, and advancements in technology made fire suppression more attainable. The success at rapidly extinguishing small fires in wildland areas, however, has helped pave the way for large, hard to control fires in many parts of the country.

One of the goals of Pilot Mountain State Park is to preserve the native plants and animals as well as the natural processes which perpetuate them. Fire is one of the natural processes most southeastern plants and animals depend on.

Another goal is visitor safety. Because the summit area of the park is also the busiest area of the park with visitation, and the summit area is also vulnerable to unintended ignitions from cigarettes, escaped camp fires, and lightning strikes, prescribed fires also provide an enhancement
Prescribed Fire Marker image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, August 21, 2014
2. Prescribed Fire Marker
to visitor safety. As you probably noticed, there is only one way in and one way out of the summit parking lot by car, which could be a disaster for park visitors in the case of a wildfire. For this reason the summit area is closed to the public during prescribed burns.

Prescribed fires are set under a burn prescription with some of the goals being to consume wood fuels, reduce the midstory, and enhance plant and animal diversity by allowing a wide variety of wildflowers and grasses to grown in the understory by preparing the seedbed and opening up the overstory. Prescribed fires are ignited only under very specific conditions necessary to accomplish these goals. Limiting conditions include weather, fuel moisture, and soil moisture, availability of trained fire-fighting personnel, and air quality. A prescribed fire is never truly controlled anymore than you can control any other force of nature, but under a burn prescription risk is greatly minimized compared to the weather and fuel conditions that favor wildfire.

During high-intensity burns, the sealed cones of this pine open, allowing the seed inside to be released over fire-cleared ground. Table mountain can regrow its upper limbs after a crown fire and can survive being scorched by a fire. It is declining due to past fire suppression practices and is only found on the driest ridges in the park where it
Sign at the entrance to Pilot Mountain State Park image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, August 21, 2014
3. Sign at the entrance to Pilot Mountain State Park
does not have to compete with as many species of trees.

Pitch pine cones release a large number of seed after being opened from the heat of a fire. Pitch pine also has the ability to send out new branches from the side of the trunk if they are burned off. This is also an adaptation to ice storms that may break the top out of a pitch pine. Young pitch pines have the ability to grow back from a stump if they are burned or grazed.

Bear oak is classified as Significantly Rare in North Carolina. It grows in a few areas in the summit area of the park where there are openings in the forest canopy. Because there have been so few fires in these openings, the upper and mi-level vegetation is beginning to shake out the bear oak. Park managers hope prescribed fires in these areas will result in a more open canopy and improved habitat for the bear oak.

(left) Some Wildflowers that Benefit from Fire: Catawba Rhododendron; Pink Lady’s Slipper; Ash-Leaved Golden Banner
(center) Table Mountain Pine Pinus pungens; Pitch Pine Pinus rigida; Bear Oak Quercus ilicifolia
(right) Other facts about prescribed fire: Burned areas recover rapidly. This area as burned in November 2012. The photo below was taken in June 2013.; Forest openings created by prescribed fires attract numerous insects for wild turkeys and songbirds to forage on.
Location. 36° 20.448′ N, 80° 28.8′ W. Marker is near Pinnacle, North Carolina, in Surry County. Marker is on Pilot Knob Park Road 2.4 miles west of Pilot Mountain Parkway (U.S. 52), on the right when traveling west. Click for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1792 Pilot Knob Park Road, Pinnacle NC 27043, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 11 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Common High Flyers of Pilot Mountain (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Pilot Mountain (approx. one mile away); Bean Shoals Canal (approx. 2.8 miles away); Reeves Homeplace (approx. 5.8 miles away); Richmond Hill (approx. 9 miles away); a different marker also named Richmond Hill (approx. 9 miles away); Wright Court House Site 1771-1774 / Richmond Court House Site 1774-1789 (approx. 9.1 miles away); Richmond Pearson (approx. 10.5 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Pinnacle.
Also see . . .  Pilot Mountain State Park. N.C. Division of Parks & Recreation (Submitted on October 1, 2014.) 
Categories. EnvironmentHorticulture & Forestry
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Md 21234. This page has been viewed 160 times since then and 46 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on , by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Md 21234. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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