The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests provide habitat for thousands of species across Virginia and West Virginia, including nearly 300 threatened, endangered, sensitive and locally rare wildlife and plants. To help preserve these and other species as well as manage for wildland hazardous fuels, Forest Service fire specialists may conduct controlled burns this spring.

Safety is the top priority and controlled burns will be conducted in the following areas only under appropriate conditions.

Two controlled burns are planned in Botetourt County. A 352-acre controlled burn is located in the Craig Creek Recreation site, near Oriskany. Other nearby communities include Hipes and Horton. Smoke could impact these areas depending on wind direction.

A controlled burn covering 2,250 acres is planned on and around Patterson Mountain. The controlled burn will take place between Patterson Mountain and Patterson Creek Road. Forest officials expect smoke to be visible from multiple locations in Botetourt and Roanoke counties. Depending on wind direction, residents in Eagle Rock and Glen Wilton may smell smoke.

Two controlled burns are planned in Craig County. One 280-acre burn is located six miles northwest of New Castle. The controlled burn is expected to have lingering smoke effects in the Barbours Creek drainage. Depending on wind direction, residents and travelers may see or smell smoke along State Route 617, along Forest Service Road (FS) 176, and around the community of Marshalltown.

The other controlled burn planned for Craig County covers 258 acres and is located in the Fenwick Mines Recreation Area. Residents and travelers my see and smell smoke in the Mill Creek and Craig Creek drainages, and around Barbours Creek, Marshalltown, and Virginia Mineral Springs.

Experienced fire specialists will closely monitor local weather conditions, such as wind and humidity, and make adjustments in the schedule as needed to ensure the safety of both crewmembers and local residents. Prior to lighting the burn, crews construct and designate firebreaks to ensure the fire does not leave the burn area. The burn will mimic historic natural fire as much as possible. Some individual trees will burn, but the fire should travel mostly across the forest floor.

Young forests, open areas and critical wildlife habitat are rapidly being lost due to 100 years of fire suppression and an aging forest. For thousands of years, fire shaped the forests and wildlife and the lands actually need fire to be healthy. Research shows that fire naturally occurred every 3-15 years in this area. Low-intensity prescribed burns create open areas where a diverse mix of grasses, plants, and wildflowers grow and provide valuable food and cover for wildlife.

These planned burns help to make the land healthier for people, water, and wildlife, such as bear, deer, turkey, and many migratory birds and many endangered species. This burn will increase food sources including blueberry, huckleberry, acorns and hickory nuts. Prescribed burns also have the important benefit of keeping homes safe by reducing fuels to prevent large wildfires.

For more information on the prescribed burn program, contact the Eastern Divide Ranger District office at (540) 552-4641.