Each year, the N.C. Forest Service (NCFS) works to increase the beneficial use of prescribed fire and advocates for its statewide application to reduce wildfire risk, promote healthier forestland and improve wildlife habitat. Outlined as one of the main goals in the North Carolina Forest Action Plan, the NCFS has an important role to play in providing fuel condition and fire assessments, managing regulations related to prescribed fire and implementing prescribed fire on private and public lands. For demonstrating leadership and excellence in accomplishing prescribed fires, the NCFS presents the State Forester’s Prescribed Burning Award annually to an employee or team of employees.
Brad Allen, assistant district forester with the Rockingham District was recently named recipient of the 2023 State Foresters Prescribed Burning Award.
“I value prescribed fire due to its vast array of uses from fuel reduction to site preparation for tree planting,” Allen said. “Fire dependent plant species and wildlife habitat receive a tremendous benefit from prescribed fire. It’s a great forest management tool, especially for longleaf pine stands and their ecosystems.”
Allen graduated from Montgomery Community College in 1998 and N.C. State University in 2001, receiving forest management degrees from both institutions. Following graduation, he briefly worked as a procurement forester for Troy Lumber Co. before becoming a wildlife technician for the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission in 2002. There, Allen planted annual food plots, installed firelines, repaired and maintained equipment and roads and conducted prescribed fire operations while working out of the Sandhills Depot in Hoffman, NC. Since joining the NCFS in December 2005, the Richmond Senior High alum has served the counties of Anson, Chatham, Lee, Montgomery, Moore, Richmond, Scotland and Stanly, forming what is known as NCFS District 3.
Prescribed fire is a common occurrence in District 3 with Allen stating he and his staff burn seven to eight months out of the year.
“A large portion of our district is in the sandhills, meaning there are many longleaf pine plantations,” said Allen. “Absent from fire, these stands would have overgrown understories and many fire-dependent species would eventually cease to exist. With the number of wildfires that occur annually in District 3, the lack of fuel reduction would lead to increased wildfire activity and behavior during certain times of the year,” he described. “The scrub oak component of the sandhills would also take control of the understory and shade out most species.”
Many state and federal agencies have ramped up efforts to not only apply more prescribed fire to areas in which it’s needed, but to educate the public about the importance of the forest management tool to raise awareness and garner support.
“Taking the time to explain the many benefits of prescribed burning and what those benefits look like in each particular case has made a big difference,” said Allen when addressing hesitancy from private woodland owners. “The relationship between fuel reduction and wildfire is typically one a landowner can relate to during the summer months when wildfire activity is amplified through media coverage.”
Allen further explained that woodland owners, especially those who are absentee or have recently moved to the area, have a better understanding of the benefits from prescribed fire once they’ve been able to observe a forest stand similar to theirs following a recent burn.
With more than 20 years of public service to District 3 and across the state, Allen said that serving the citizens of North Carolina, supporting coworkers within the district and seeing the fruits of their labor is what he enjoys most about his job.
To learn more about the benefits of prescribed fire and how it may help keep your woodlands healthy and resilient, visit https://www.ncforestservice.gov/goodfire.