Rangers evaluate benefits of WNC wildfires

The U.S. Forest Service said wildfires that burned in Western North Carolina cannot be classified as a benefit, but they see some benefits down the road. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

Now that rain has wildfires in Western North Carolina under control, forest officials are analyzing the damage and assessing any positives.

The U.S. Forest Service said the wildfires cannot be classified as a benefit, but they see some benefits down the road.

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They said due to the dryness, fires burned very hot, clearing out a lot of underbrush and eliminating fuels for future fires.

“It would be similar to our prescribed burning when we're looking at a fuels reduction issue and to improve, get rid of the brushy species and create more grasses and forbes on the forest floor,” says Mike Wilkins, with the Nantahala Ranger Station in Macon County.

But other areas, Wilkins says, could be left with dead wood increasing fire risk. It’s a little of both scenarios in a huge forest mosaic.

Wilkins says the fire actually will benefit the rare Table Mountain Pine. By next spring, he expects more wildflowers on the forest floor.

“There's also certain flowering species that it...benefits. So, some of that lush vegetation, it will come back in this part of the world,” he said. “We'll get a good flush of that forest floor for a while."

Firefighters came from all over the country. They've had a hard job. But Wilkins says they considered being here, a benefit.

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“They thought this is the most gracious, hospitable people they'd ever been to,” he said.

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