Fire Can Benefit, Commission Says

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Fire Can Benefit, Commission SaysRALEIGH, N.C. (June 16, 2008)– As smoky, scary and unnerving as the Evans Road Wildfire might be to people, some animals and plants may actually end up benefiting, biologists with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission said.

Most animals tend to escape from fires unscathed, and once the smoldering stops, new growth will create habitats for different species for several years.

“As bad as this fire may appear, with the smoke and the heat, there may be good that can come out of it,” said Tommy Hughes, a biologist with the Wildlife Resources Commission. “Smoky and nasty as this fire is, the animals are getting out of there, and there is an abundance of habitat that is created for some species.”

The fire has grown to 41,000 acres this week – in and around the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge — after starting June 1 from a lightening strike on private land. The fire won’t go out until the area gets a soaking rain, and as of Monday, the state had issued a Code Purple air quality alert for four consecutive days for areas downwind of the fire.

While upwards of 500 people have been involved in the firefighting effort, biologists say most animals can escape – or hide – without any assistance. Bears, deer and birds will move to areas that aren’t burning, Hughes said.

Less mobile animals can burrow underground, or take refuge near waterholes, he added.

And when the smoke clears, the thick vegetation that has burned clears the way for new plant life to grow. That new growth can provide new habitats for birds and other wildlife, which may live there for several years.

After a 1985 wildfire that destroyed 6,000 acres of the game lands in Holly Shelter, new vegetations thrived, Hughes said.

“Right now, the big concern is to contain the fire, and keep homes and people safe,” he said. “But this is a natural occurrence on the East coast, and the land responds. It’s not terrible for the wildlife.”

For more information on the fire, click here.