EDITO: Attention, yes! More fight fire with fire | Editorial

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The Times and the Democrat

The SC Forestry Commission warned a week ago that amid a dramatic increase in wildfires, the public is urged to exercise the utmost vigilance when carrying out outdoor burns of any kind.

Then, over the weekend, the SCFC issued a statewide fire alert discouraging people from burning outdoors.

The agency recorded 106 wildfires that scorched more than 1,500 acres between Thursday and Saturday, adding to a busy season that has already seen more wildfires in the first three months of 2022 than the entire previous financial year (July 2020-June 2021).

South Carolina is at the height of what is traditionally called “wildfire season” throughout much of the southeastern United States. The majority of Palmetto State’s largest and most destructive wildfires have occurred in March and April.

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Wildfire doesn’t have to be that expensive.

That’s the message from Governor Henry McMaster and South Carolina experts. The Governor has proclaimed March 2022 Prescribed Fire Awareness Month in South Carolina.

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A coalition of state, federal, and nongovernmental land management organizations under the South Carolina Controlled Fires Council called for the proclamation again in 2022 to raise awareness of the critical role fire plays in both the management of our natural resources and in the protection of life and property.

Prescribed or controlled burning is the skillful application of fire under predicted weather and fuel conditions to achieve specific forest and land management objectives. Controlled burning is an ancient practice, notably used by Native Americans for crop management, insect and pest control, and improving hunting habitat, among other things.

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The practice continues today under the direction of land managers who understand the weather, fuel loads, and atmospheric conditions appropriate to conduct such burns. These carefully applied lights are an important tool to help restore and maintain vital habitat for wildlife, including bobwhite quail and other grassland birds, wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, gopher tortoises and red cockade woodpeckers. Besides the many wildlife species that require a fire-dependent habitat, there are many plants that only thrive in regularly burned forests.

Prescribed burning improves public safety by reducing or even eliminating fuel loads, thereby making a wildfire in that area impossible or unlikely for some time thereafter. And wildfires are generally less destructive on areas that have been prescribed burned. Forest fires often lose intensity or die out when they reach areas that have been prescribed for burning.

“Prescribed burning is not only the most effective and economical wildfire protection because it reduces accumulated fuels,” McMaster said in its proclamation, “but it is also a key tool in the managing and maintaining the ecological integrity of South Carolina’s forests, grasslands, farmlands, and wildlife habitats.

Darryl Jones, SCFC’s forest protection chief, said about 500,000 acres are burned each year in South Carolina – most on private land – but at least 1 million acres are expected to be burned each year. year.

“Each prescribed burn brings multiple benefits,” Jones said. “Most SC forests are fire-adapted and regularly burned, historically speaking. When responsible land managers use prescribed burning as a tool under the right weather and fuel conditions, we can maintain wildlife habitat and forest health while reducing the severity of wildfires.

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Although prescribed burning cannot stop all wildfires, it is the best management tool available to prevent larger and more frequent outbreaks. As unusual as it may seem to the layman, preventing devastating wildfires is like fighting fire with fire.

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