Prescribed Fire in South Carolina

The Nature Conservancy is working to maintain the central role of fire in the health of longleaf pine forest

The Nature Conservancy is a leader in prescribed burning as part of our work to restore longleaf pine forests. Since 2009, the Conservancy in South Carolina has participated in 238 prescribed fires totaling 120,019 acres. That's an average of 40 fires and 20,003 acres per season (usually spanning from January to April).

The longleaf pine forests that once covered much of South Carolina are now at only at 3% of their historic range from Virginia to Texas. Ground-story vegetation of the longleaf forest is one of the most diverse in the world.

Longleaf pine forests have experienced regular fire for more than 5,000 years. Many plants and animals became dependent on periodic fire for their reproduction, growth, and survival.

Crew members manage the fire line. Prescribed burning returns fire to the landscape in a controlled fashion so it can continue its vital role in the life cycles of the plants and animals that depend on it.

Fire benefits public safety by removing dry ground tinder that adds intensity to wildfires. Forests that burn regularly provide better wildlife habitat, foster native plants, and are generally healthier and more robust.

The Conservancy works with many partners to implement prescribed fire. In May 2014 we participated in a controlled fire led by the U.S. Forest Service on a tract that we manage here in South Carolina.

Conservancy Fire Manager Tom Dooley talks with U.S. Forest Service partners. The burn this May was conducted in partnership with the Forest Service via a special agreement to help share resources and improve efficiency.

During the May controlled burn, fire was applied to a total of 1635 acres by fire workers lighting backing fires on the perimeter and by aerial ignition from a helicopter.

Goals of this recent prescribed fire included enhancing longleaf pine habitat, reducing heavy fuel loads in fire-suppressed areas, and reducing woody vegetation around a former cypress wetland to improve hydrology.