PENDER COUNTY — Pender County officials are urging residents to remain calm as the North Carolina Wildlife Service conducts a 1,300-acre controlled fire in the Holly Shelter Game Land.
After residents posted images of a massive plume of smoke on social media on Wednesday, Pender Fire Marshal Tommy Batson said there is nothing to be concerned about as of 3:45 p.m. Wednesday afternoon.
“Everybody’s worried to death about it. But there is no threat to people and property at this time,” Batson said.
The closest neighborhood to the fire is a group of homes along Pinnacle Parkway, according to Batson, but he said that at this time the fire is moving away from the neighborhood and is presenting no threat to its residents.
The controlled burn comes a day after the N.C. Wildlife Service conducted an initial 1,400-acre burn inside the protected game land, according to Pender County Emergency Management.
According to Batson, the burn is meant to reduce the threat of wildlife and enhance wildlife habitat in the game land. By burning dead undergrowth, the Wildlife Service removes potential kindling that could cause a forest fire to spread rapidly, Batson said; within days, green growth appears and provides a more healthy habitat for animals like wild turkeys and quail.
On March 13, county commissioners voted to issue a declaration of emergency — to be executed only if necessary — when a controlled fire inside Holly Shelter spread beyond the control of the N.C. Forest Service due to high winds. If winds had shifted as was originally forecasted, Pender County EMS and Fire Chief Woody Sullivan said 600 to 700 would potentially be forced to evacuate.
Because of less severe winds and the efforts of the N.C. Forest Service, the fire was nearly fully contained by 5:45 that evening, according to Sullivan.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to correctly identify the location of the photograph.
Send tips and comments to the reporter at email@example.com or (970) 413-3815