Local News

Controlled Burns Help Forest Service Fight Fire With Fire

Posted Updated

DURHAM, N.C. — Dry weather can lead to concerns about wildfires. It is also one of the best times to fight forest fires before they start.

A big cloud of smoke above Durham County Thursday was the result of a controlled burn at Camp Butner.

"Well, there is that old adage, fight fire with fire. If ever it was true, this is where we use fire as a tool to help manage the fuel loads or manage the wildlife," said Carl Johnson of the

North Carolina Forest Service


There has always been a positive relationship between forest and fire.

"The way it is now, we have so many homes built in areas where you can't just let a lighting strike burn and let it burn off the way it would have hundreds of years ago. Now we have to choose the weather windows and burn it just right so there is as little damage as possible," Johnson said.

A controlled burn at Camp Butner Thursday was the final exam for one member of the forest service. Bill Swartley had his first assignment as burn boss.

"Well, as burn boss, my first and foremost responsibility is the safety of the crew," he said.

The second is having a good burn. The target was National Guard land at Camp Butner, a training base for the Guard.

"Today we are doing about 290 acres, yesterday we did about 250. Typically we try to do about 500 to 1,000 acres a year," said Alisa Dickson, manager of Natural Resources for Timber and Wildlife.

"You can put a little smoke in the air now or have a lot when you have a wildfire," Johnson said.

The Forest Service helps land owners, farmers, and others with management of their timber, including prescribed burns like the one at Camp Butner.


Dan Wilkinson, Reporter
Dan Wilkinson, Photographer
Michelle Singer, Web Editor

Copyright 2022 by Capitol Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.