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Bay Tree Lakes

Bay TreeThe Bay Tree Lakes community in Bladen County lies along the shores of two lakes connected by a series of navigable canals---Bay Tree and Horsepen Lakes. Residential construction along the lakes began in 1973 and today 106 home sites exist on the site. The area is popular as both a vacation destination and a permanent home. Property owners cherish its quiet, natural setting, and its abundant wildlife.

The forest ecosystem surrounding Bay Tree Lakes is highly susceptible to large wildfire occurrence, due to the difficulty of suppression efforts in the peat soils common to the region. Fires burning in the heavy concentrations of peat and deep layers of decaying pinestraw and trees can burn several feet into the ground making control efforts hazardous to firefighters. During particularly dry periods, fires in the peat soils can burn for weeks at a time, causing poor air quality and reducing visibility along roads

Bay Tree LakesThe Bay Tree Lakes Fire Department has responded to 49 wildfires in its district since 1998. One wildfire, that ignited during July of 2002, burned to the property line of the Bay Tree Lakes community and consumed 55 acres, sparking an interest by the community leaders in the Firewise Communities/USA program.

In response to community inquiries, the Bladen County staff of the North Carolina Division of Forest Resources (NCDFR) and District Firewise Coordinator Michael Hardison assisted in the development of a hazard assessment document. It described the historical occurrence of fire activity in the area, and included particular problem areas in the community that might intensify the damage caused by a wildfire outbreak.

Bay Tree LakesAfter this, the community property owners association formed a Firewise Task Force to address specific problems highlighted in the assessment. With further assistance from partners, a hazard mitigation plan was produced that included specific steps homeowners could take to reduce their wildfire threat.

Plan recommendations included the development of defensible space around homes, creation of an evacuation plan, utilization of consistent and highly visible property address markings, and the installation of dry hydrants designed to reduce the amount of time required to transport water to the site. With help from a Firewise block grant, the community began taking action.

Bay Tree LakesSteps already taken in response to the mitigation plan include the hosting of a community wide clean-up day to reduce dangerous fuel accumulations around homes, the installation of 19 dry fire hydrants, and the mounting of easily identifiable, non-flammable street signs.

In June 2006, Bay Tree Lakes became the third community in southeastern North Carolina and the fifth community in the state to achieve Firewise Communities USA status.

See information on the Bay Tree Lakes community Property Owners Association.