The Hitchcock Woods Foundation will resume its prescribed burning program in December.

Prescribed burns will be conducted for several months in various areas of Hitchcock Woods as favorable weather conditions permit.

Like forest thinning, prescribed burning is a management tool used to maintain the ecological health of the Woods and reduce the risk of wildfire.

Prescribed burning is one of the most important tools used today to manage forests, according to a press release issued by the Hitchcock Woods Foundation.

“We conduct burns in the Woods for several different reasons, not only for hazard reduction, but also to benefit the flora and fauna of the longleaf pine ecosystem,” said Woods Superintendent Bennett Tucker.

Without prescribed burns, fuel (grasses, pine needles, leaves, brush and fallen trees) can accumulate, potentially leading to accidental fires that are more intense, destructive and harder to control.

Regular prescribed burning of understory plants also enhances wildlife habitat while producing more nutrient rich soil for plants and promoting the production of flowers, seeds and fruit.

As a certified prescribed fire manager, Tucker has the expertise and experience to conduct prescribed burns safely and effectively. He also has been a volunteer firefighter for 14 years, including 13 years of experience with the Aiken Department of Public Safety.

“As certified prescribed fire managers, we abide by smoke management guidelines established by the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), the South Carolina Forestry Commission and DHEC (S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control) to ensure adequate smoke dispersal,” Tucker said.

Prescribed burn areas are prepared ahead of time with firebreaks. Tractors and a brush fire truck are put in place to deal with contingencies.

Public Safety officers also patrol the perimeter of the Woods to watch for any smoke accumulation on public roads.

While prescribed burning policy enhancements in recent years have reduced smoke effects in the community, area residents might notice some smoke, or just the smell of smoke, coming from Hitchcock Woods.

Signs will be posted at formal entrances to the Woods where prescribed burning activities are taking place. Announcements about prescribed burns also will be posted on the Hitchcock Woods Foundation’s Facebook page.

For more information about prescribed burning and the management of Hitchcock Woods visit www.hitchcockwoods.org, click on the “LEARN” tab at the top of the home page and then click on “Woods Stewardship” on the drop-down menu.

Information about prescribed burning also can be found at www.goodfires.org.