By Gary Allen Burns

Prescribed fire was used by Native Americans and later by many European settlers.

In the early 1900s, however, landowners were discouraged from using prescribed fire. In the 1940s Smokey Bear’s message was “Only you can prevent forest fires,” but the message is now “Only you can prevent wildfires,” as we recognize that prescribed fire can maintain a healthy ecosystem. The fire kills brush and small trees that might grow and compete with southern pines and create a dense canopy that prohibits sufficient sunlight from reaching the ground and encouraging herbaceous vegetation.