All that smoke is from “good fire”! It’s marsh burning season again on Outer Banks

A prescribed burn of marsh at Pine Island took place on Saturday. [courtesy Robbie Fearn/NC Audubon]

It’s once again prescribed burning season in North Carolina, as every year in late winter and early spring, intentional fires are set in marshlands and the understory of forests to benefit the environment and help prevent out-of-control wildfires.

One of those fires took place Saturday in the Donal C. O’Brien, Jr. Sanctuary in the Pine Island section of Corolla, which is managed by Audubon North Carolina.

Each year, the sanctuary burns around one-third of its marsh lands, roughly 850 acres, after the grass has gone to seed but before the marsh birds make their nests.

By only igniting part of the marsh, that allows wildlife to seek shelter in the other areas of the sanctuary that runs along the Currituck Sound. The process mimics the natural renewal cycle created by nature where a lightning strike sets the grass ablaze.

After getting all of the necessary permits from the N.C. Forest Service, sanctuary managers wait for proper wind conditions to ensure the safest burn possible.

Controlled marsh fires are important to the conservation of birds and wildlife along coastal North Carolina’s marsh lands. They allow healthy growth and increased plant diversity that provides food, shelter and nesting material vital for birds to thrive.

Along with the Pine Island fires over February, prescribed burns have taken place in Jockey’s Ridge State Park and Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge with more likely in the coming weeks. So expect to see more of those big smoke plumes along the soundside of Outer Banks and mainland.

About Sam Walker 1512 Articles
Sam Walker was news director for, Beach 104, 99.1 The Sound, Big 94.5 WCMS and Z 92.3 from August 2011 to March 2022.