If you happen to smell smoke outside over the next few weeks, and you’re pretty sure it’s not coming from your immediate area, then there’s a chance it may be coming from a controlled burn by forest managers.

On Twitter this past Thursday, a lot of folks expressed concern about a layer of smoke hanging over a large portion of Chapel Hill that afternoon.

As it turns out, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission conducted a controlled burn in 218 acres of Jordan Game Lands that day.

Wildlife Resources Forest Manager Brandon Minor works in District 5, an 11-county district that includes Orange, Durham, Alamance and Chatham:

“The purpose was to improve the wildlife habitat within a thinned pine stand,” he says.

Minor added that reducing the probability of a wildfire was also a goal of the burn.

He says that an unforeseen wind shift was likely the reason so many people all over Chapel Hill may have seen and smelled smoke on Thursday.

“We had a little shower or rain actually come through when we were burning it,” he says. “It kind of set the smoke down and held it tight to the ground, and didn’t let it go up.”

According to Minor, the result was that low cloud of smoke.

“The predicted wind was actually southwest for that day, and that would have taken it above everything,” he says. “But that rain was kind of what really hurt us.”

Minor says the burn prescription for Jordan Game Lands was planned well in advance.

“We do annual burn prescriptions on each game land that we manage,” he said. “These are planned in the summer for the fall and winter burn season.”

But precise scheduling is always at the mercy of Mother Nature.

“The wet winter we’ve had so far has prevented us from doing a bunch of controlled burns, or prescribed burns, like we wanted to,” he says. “And so this time of year is when we get the best control on our hard wood.”

He says this is also when controlled burning produces the best wildlife habitat results.

According to Minor, controlled burning by the Wildlife Resources Commission could continue through the first week of May, or whenever all the sweetgums and underbrush start to get really green.

He says that makes it harder for a fire to carry through a timber stand. Plus, humidity would start to lower the intensity of a burn.

Minor says that all questions about controlled burning by the Wildlife Resources Commission can be directed to the Raleigh office at 919-707-0010.