U.S. Joint Fire Science Program


Date of this Version


Document Type



Fire Science Brief, Issue 51, June 2009


US government work.


A long-term study has been done on the effects of repeated dormant season prescribed burns within a forested area on the South Carolina Coastal Plain, on plots dominated by mixed longleaf pine and loblolly pine. A recent report documents the effectiveness of this burning as a tool to reduce hazardous fuel loads. Repeated burns at intervals from one to four years help to return and maintain the forest in a state closer to its composition before European settlement. Prescribed burning here reduces the risk of overstory-killing wildfi res, and helps maintain habitat for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. Further, it helps regeneration of longleaf pine as a dominant species. This project established an area accessible for public and scientifi c demonstration focused on the benefi ts of prescribed burning. The recent review of the longstanding prescribed burning project summarizes the results and notes the demonstration value of this site. Dormant season burning does not affect overstory pine longevity. With annual burns, grasses and forbs become the dominant understory species. Prescribed burning every three to four years is suffi cient to reduce fuel loads and minimize wildfi re hazard.