SLIDELL, La. — Fire crews have burned a small section of a wildlife refuge to benefit longleaf pine trees, which require periodic fires to thrive, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said.

Most of the 38,500-acre Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Reserve is in Louisiana and its headquarters is in Slidell, but Wednesday’s burn was in Pearl River County, Mississippi.

The prescribed burn started Wednesday morning and was completed by about 3 p.m., said Assistant Fire Management Officer Chris LeRouge.

He said the 84-acre (34 hectare) area would be checked Thursday to make sure the fire stayed between some roads and Pink Smith Creek.

“We pushed the fire into the creek,” which forms a natural boundary, he said.

Longleaf pines need fire to suppress competing plants, including sweetgum trees and invasive Chinese tallow trees. They also need fires to burn away layers of needles, leaves and twigs that keep longleaf pine seeds from touching the ground — something the seeds must do to develop.

The fires also improve habitat for animals dependent upon the longleaf ecosystem, such as the gopher tortoise, a threatened species, and Louisiana pine snakes, which have been proposed for the list of threatened species.

LeRouge says the refuge hopes to conduct about two more prescribed burns before turkey nesting season begins in mid-March or April.