Horry Wildfire: 6 months later, Pt 2
Thu, 22 Oct 2009 21:43:56 GMT —
It's been six months since the wildfire that consumed thousands of acres in Horry County. It destroyed dozens of homes and caused millions of dollars in damage, but there is one silver lining to all of that destruction.
The April wildfire consumed a huge portion of the Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve, home to the Late Purple Astor, the Pine Gentian (listed as endangered in the state), and many other plant and animal species.
It's one of the few places in the world where you can find the Venus Flytrap plant in the wild and since the fire, the Flytrap has flourished.
"Our colonies that we have established, and we knew where they were, have done very well and have seen quite a bit of expansion," said Deanna Ruth, a wildlife biologist with the Department of Natural Resources.
In fact, Ruth says the 46 plant species typically found in the preserve have all done well since the fire. The trees that were lost were mostly slash pine, what Ruth calls the industrial forest.
Thinning out those trees and replacing them with a native species is a long term goal of the DNR.
Ruth says, "What this has done is, it's fast forwarded all of that and next year we're going to be looking at planting almost a thousand acres of long leaf out here to reforest."
Dense forest allows fire to jump from one treetop to the next, quickly spreading out of control.
Ruth says, "That's what happened, was the fire just started pulling on itself and growing bigger and hotter and consuming everything."
But fewer trees equals more lush ground cover, making wildfires easier to control and allowing more plant species to flourish. That's a plus for all species, from the tiniest tree frogs on up.
"The biodiversity, it's good for the bears, it's good for the deer, quail, turkeys, squirrels. everyone's a big winner," says Ruth.
Thousands of charred pine trees have been clear-cut, turned into wood pulp and paper products, and in their place, the bears will have wild blueberries and other plants to munch on.
The fire ravaged 8,000 acres of the 9,300 acre preserve.