Listen to Angie Carl from the Nature Conservancy and Cape Fear Ranger Bill Walker talk about Fire in the Pines. This annual celebration of Southeastern "fire forests" is bigger than ever this year, even though the burn ban due to Hurricane Florence dampens the fire part.
This free event, featuring animals, hayrides, facepainting, crafts, music, and more is Saturday, October 12, 10:00am-3:00pm at Halyburton Park. See our extended conversation below.
Angie: My name is Angie Carl, I worked for the Nature Conservancy. I'm the coastal fire and restoration manager and I am also one of the coordinators for the fire and the Pines Festival.
Bill: Hi, I'm Bill Walker with the North Carolina Forest Service on the Cape Fear Area Ranger here in the southeast part of the state. And I'm also a coordinator for Fire in the Pines festival.
Gina: First of all, Fire in the Pines is happening as scheduled.
Angie: That is correct. October 13th at Halliburton Park from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM.
Gina: And this is a really exciting year. You have more folks coming in and participating with booths this year than ever before.
Angie: Yeah. We have 50 groups setting up interactive booths with all kinds of activities related to the Longleaf Pine ecosystem and fire.
Gina: Let’s talk about some of these groups that come in. These aren't like elephant ear booths. A lot of these booths are educational or about groups in our area.
Angie: Yeah. The weather service is there and they will have a booth set up. Last year they had a tornado booth and they had a tornado actually spinning at their booth and kids got to do activities weather-related. The North Carolina coastal land trust will be there and you can plant pollinators. So they'll have plants so that you can plant and take home. The girl scouts are there and they always do arts and crafts. The Art Museum will be there and they'll have a craft. There are bees there, live animals. You can hold snakes and turtles and lizards. We'll have a raptor show set up. And then during, when there is no raptor show going on, you can go in and look at the owls and the hawks that we have that are rescue birds. So there's all kinds of live animals, plants, carnivorous plants, coloring pages, a scavenger hunt where the kids get to go around to the booths and ask why fire is good for certain things such as plants and animals. And they get stickers and then they get free stuff. There's a raffle for the parents that's free. There are hayrides that are free. Everything is free except for the food trucks. We'll have about five or six food trucks are this year. We're really excited about all the free stuff that we have. Everything was given to us through donations. So we provide the festival for free for everyone so that they can learn about fire in the pines.
Gina: And that's the whole purpose of this festival, it's to educate people. What are some of those educational goals? And let's start with fire because I know that you have to teach people about fire.
Bill: Yeah. So we want to get away from the perception that fire is bad. Yes, fire can be bad, but fire is just fire. It is there. Angie coined this phrase several years ago, just like a rain forest and the drain, the southeastern forest or fire forest and they need fire. It helps them grow, it helps them mature, it helps them stay healthy. It's part of their natural environment that they need. If we we take it away, the forest declines in in one way, shape or form. So we want to educate the public and everybody else on why we want to reintroduce more, continue to reintroduce fire to the natural environment for the health of our forests, by reintroducing fire and continuing to use fire as a management tool. We help everything else. It's not just the trees, it's the orchids, and the carnivorous plants, and the bees and the other pollinators to butterflies, birds, squirrels, everything benefits in this area from relatively continuous use of fire in the environment. So that's the main message we want to get out. But we also want to show people how we do it in a safe manner. I mean, once you introduce human control into something, if there's no brain power and science behind it, you know, things go wrong. So generally speaking, we would do a, a small demonstration controlled burn at the festival this year. We are not due to the very recent hurricane and the burn ban put in to effect. But we're gonna try and imitate as much of a regular Fire in the Pines festival as we possibly can.
Gina: Things that I was excited about was dropping stuff out of the helicopter.
Bill: We've never actually dropped stuff out of the helicopter at the Fire in the Pines festival. Yes. Dropping flaming ping pong balls out of the helicopter to set fire is one of the main reasons why I still have this job because it's just fun. Who doesn't want to do that? Every little boy and girls dream, you know? But the helicopter will not be there this year, it's doing disaster relief. But we will have some of the implements that the helicopter uses. And we will be happy to tell anybody about how you too can learn how to drop flaming ping pong balls out of a helicopter.
Gina: What is your favorite part of the festival besides the burn? I feel like you're going to miss the burn a lot, right? There's some other fun stuff.
Angie: There are firetrucks and they're allowed to crawl on the firetrucks. You have bulldozers.
Bill: We will have a bulldozer.
Angie: And snakes and turtles. The raptor shows pretty awesome. The hayrides. Every kid loves the hayride and it's always packed. It's always packed. And we've got two hay rides. We actually lost the wagons this year from the hurricane. And we were lucky that Poplar Grove actually donated to wagons for us to use to actually continue because we didn't want to lose the hayrides and the fire. So we've got live music. I bought a bubble machine this year. Kids get their face pain and we have professional face painters come and paint their faces for free. We had so many spiderman last year, so it's going to be interesting to see what the favorite is this year. But we had some beautiful face painting done on the kids and it's all free. Crafts. They can make fire crowns and flight a Venus flytrap puppets. Smokey bear's there. And we've also got Bob the Burner coming. It's a woodpecker dressed up in a with a drip torch. We've got lots of jugglers and musicians and some dance teams are coming Not everybody stays for the fire. Like there is so much fun free stuff for kids to do out there and to learn. And it's all interactive and hands on. The fire is great. And it's amazing and it's great for people to see and they want to see that, but it's a family activity event that I hear from a lot of moms that say it's the best kid's festival in the city throughout the whole year. So there's so much for kids to do. We've got so many things for them to see and touch and learn about in a fun way
Bill: And I really loved the raptors. If I don't see anything else, I'm going to go see the raptors.
Gina: The kids that get to go to this, what are they learning that is going to make a difference in the world later?
Bill: I think the interconnectivity, and I know lots of people throw that out there these days and whatnot, but call it the web of life. There’s a Disney reference for you. Symbiotic relationships. This combination of heat, oxygetn and fuel we call fire affects everything else around it, including ourselves.
Angie: And when people come into the festival right away, we give the kids a scavenger hunt so that they get to interact with the booths and learn about why fire is important for all these different aspects, for the animals, the plants. It's a great way for them to learn. They get stickers from each booths that they get the answer for and then they come back and get a free prize. So who doesn't want free stuff?
Gina: And all this stuff comes... How do you guys get all this stuff? Just from all the different organizations...?
Angie: Well we have a lot of sponsors that donate money and time and all kinds of stuff, so everything is donated to us and we buy a lot of this stuff too with the money that we get donated. Bill, the forest service gives out smokey bear stuff. All of the organizations give out a lot of stuff. I mean, kids walk away, I would say definitely bring a bag so that you have a stuff that you can carry your free swag home in.
Gina: Are you Smokey Bear?
Gina: Okay. I just asking
Bill: But I know who is!
Please come on out. The kids have been out of school for two and a half weeks. If you're like me, they needed a distraction. They've only been back in school for for two days. It will be a week and two days by the time of the festival gets here. So I know I'm bringing mine. Come out for a fun-filled free day. Even if you don't like fire, there's a lot of stuff to do, but I think you'll learn a lot about fire and the environment in general.
Angie: Bring the family. There's playgrounds and a lot of free activities. Food trucks, fun, fire, family. What more can you ask for? And it's going to be a great day.