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Fighting Fire With Fire

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HALIFAX — For decades, people have been fighting fire with fire. It is called controlled burning. However, as developments expand into wooded areas, many states are regulating the practice.

Trained forest managers use fire to burn land regularly in Halifax County for a local paper company that grows its own timber.

"After we've gone and harvested an area, we'll come in and burn it to reduce fuel and to clean the site up for a quality planting area," private land manager Damon Hartman said.

The same principle applies to woodlands all over the state. Rangers say burning the small leaves and branches on the forest floor robs wildfires of the fuel they need to spread.

"If you did have a wildfire, a lightning strike or something, there would not be an intense fire," forest ranger Jim Winfree said. "You'll be able to get into it quicker and get it out a lot easier."

The trouble is growth. Like Florida, fire managers in N.C. cannot conduct controlled burns as often as they would like. People enjoy living in wooded areas and often complain about the smoke when there is a controlled blaze nearby.

Florida cut back on prescribed burns three years ago. Some said that is one of the reasons this summer's fires have been so hard to fight. They do not want our state to make the same mistake.

"You either burn now and put some smoke in the air now on a limited basis, or you wait until you have something that's just happened in Florida where you have thousands and thousands of acres to burn; and all that smoke and all that silt. It's a trade off," Winfree said.

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Brian Bowman, Reporter
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