COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina officials say they are setting fires at about a dozen state parks to reduce the possibility of out-of-control wildfires in the future.

The prescribed burns started earlier this month and will go through the end of spring, the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism said in a statement.

The fires get rid of highly flammable forest debris that can burn easily in a wildfire. Fire has been a natural way to get rid of old, dead growth and help habitats for animals, the agency said.

State Forestry officials carefully check the weather to make sure they can keep the fires under control and minimize the amount of smoke that reaches populated areas, officials said.

But changeable weather conditions mean the fire experts often can’t give a lot of notice before they set the fires, authorities said.

Prescribed burns have already taken place at Aiken State Park, Cheraw State Park, Devils Fork State Park, Hampton Plantation State Historic Site, Keowee-Toxaway State Park, Oconee State Park, and Table Rock State Park, the agency said.

The fires are planned later for Barnwell State Park, Rose Hill State Historic Site, and Kings Mountain State Park, officials said.

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