Sustainable Sandhills has partnered with the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) to provide outreach programs to vulnerable populations impacted by intense heat and wildfire or prescribed fire smoke in our southern counties – Bladen, Robeson, Sampson and Scotland Counties. Our program is called BRACE, Building Resilience Against Climate Effects.

Populations vulnerable to the effects of heat and smoke include the elderly, children, youth athletes, migrant workers and low-income residents – especially those who live in mobile homes – and people with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease.

With agencies such as county public health departments and emergency management services, we reach out to these populations to ensure that they are informed about the risks of heat and smoke exposure and understand the measures that can protect them from adverse health effects.


Heat is the leading cause of weather-related deaths in the United States every year. In 2020, there were 3,099 heat-related visits to emergency rooms in North Carolina, and 14 percent of those were in Sandhills counties.

Intense heat can cause illnesses from heat exhaustion to heat stroke. Symptoms can include headache, nausea, disorientation, muscle weakness, fatigue and even death.

Learn more about heat-related illnesses, their symptoms and treatments HERE.


• Monitor the forecast. If the heat index rises above 90 degrees, seek shelter in your home or an air conditioned structure as much as possible. (The heat index is a combined measure of temperature and relative humidity. Learn more about the heat index HERE.)

• If you do not have access to air conditioning, find a designated cooling center in your county.

• Use fans to augment your central air conditioning.

• Stay hydrated.

• Use cooling towels and other cooling products.

• Wear light-colored, lightweight and loose-fitting clothing.

• Avoid prolonged outdoor activities when the heat index is above 90 degrees. If you must be outside, stay well hydrated. Seek shade whenever possible.


The longleaf pine-wiregrass “savannah” in the Sandhills is dependent on fire for the health of the ecosystem. Prescribed fire opens the canopy, encourages seed growth and reduces the underbrush, called “duff,” that fuels devastating wildfires. Fort Bragg, the NC Forest Service and other agencies conduct controlled burns in the Sandhills. While these agencies are careful to conduct burns with public health and safety in mind, some smoke may infiltrate the environment. 


• Monitor your region’s air quality forecast. If the Air Quality Index (AQI) is in the Orange, Red or Purple ranges, seek shelter indoors as much as possible. If the AQI is in the Yellow range, seek shelter indoors if you are sensitive to air quality concerns or if you have a respiratory illness.

You can find your Air Quality Index and more information HERE.

• Watch for notices of prescribed burns in your area. If a controlled burn is occurring, seek shelter indoors.

Contact Information for NC Forest Service County Offices

Bladen County: 910.588.4861 or

Cumberland County: 910.483.1535 or

Harnett County: 910.893.4391 or

Hoke County: 910.875.2808 or

Lee County: 919.775.5214 or

Moore County: 910.235.0216 or

Montgomery County: 910.576.5481 or

Richmond County: 910.582.7029 or 

Robeson County: 910.618.5540 or

Sampson County: 910.592.4515 or

Scotland County: 910.276.0455 or

See the NC Forest Service Wildfire and Emergency Response situation report HERE.

Contact Information for Fort Bragg Forestry

910.396.2510 or see a daily burn map HERE.

• Close doors and windows on days when smoke is in your area.

• Do not burn trash or vegetation on your property.

• Do not produce or disturb smoke or particulate matter in your home. Avoid the use of tobacco or vaping products, candles, fireplaces and vacuum cleaners during periods of poor air quality.

• Use an air purifier to draw smoke and other particulates from the air.

• Do not rely on masks to prevent smoke-related illnesses! KN-95 and N-95 rated masks will provide some protection against smoke exposure but will not prevent it entirely.


Community Readiness Reports for Heat Safety from NC DHHS

Community Readiness Reports for Smoke Safety from NC DHHS

Weekly Heat Reports from NC DHHS

Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology from NC DHHS

North Carolina Climate and Health Profile