On Wednesday afternoon, members of the Shippensburg community turned toward South Mountain as a great eruption of smoke boiled high into the sky and left a blanket trail draped across the mountain for miles.
The smoke plume came from a prescribed burn conducted by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Recreation in the Michaux State Forest near Dead Woman’s Hollow. Ridge Road was closed Wednesday to all traffic, and signs rerouted hikers on the Appalachian Trail around the area. The area was also closed Thursday as the ashes had not yet cooled to a safe level, according to the Michaux State Forest District Office.
Prescribed burns are man-made fires deliberately set to clear dead brush, leaves and branches. These small, controlled fires destroy the fuel for wild fires and clear the area for new plant growth.
Fire is a natural part of a forest’s life cycle and many tree species, like those that dominate the Dead Woman’s Hollow area, are actually dependent on periodic fires to remain healthy.