GATLINBURG, Tenn.— Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Appalachian Piedmont Coastal Fire Management Zone staff plan to burn approximately 925 acres of fields in the Cades Cove area. Weather permitting, burn operations will occur between Monday, February 13 and Friday, March 3.
Deer, turkeys, ground-nesting birds, and other species benefit when plants they depend on for food and cover are rejuvenated using seasonal prescribed fire. The restoration work using prescribed fire takes months of planning and coordination. Added support from resources and firefighters from across the country helps the park meet specific objectives.
“We are fortunate to have assistance from Conservation Legacy wildland firefighters for our spring prescribed fires,” said Fire Management Officer Brian Tonihka. “Their skilled application of prescribed fire is critical to the health of the natural ecosystem at Cades Cove and the safety of our visitors.”
Firefighters plan to burn the following units labeled on the attached map: Maple Branch, Tipton Oliver, and Cemetery Marsh. The three units are the last to be treated with prescribed fire in the Cades Cove area this prescribed fire season. Firefighters successfully burned about 250 acres last fall in the Cable House and Sparks units to target woody plant species that were encroaching into the fields.
Cades Cove Loop Road and historic structures will remain open to visitors during burn operations, but brief delays may occur to ensure public safety. Sparks Lane may be closed, and other temporary road closures or traffic control may be implemented, especially if crews and equipment are working along the edge of the road or if smoke causes unsafe driving conditions. Visitors should expect to see firefighters and equipment along the loop road, Sparks Lane, and Hyatt Lane. Fire managers ask that motorists reduce speed in work zones, and refrain from stopping in the roadways. If smoke is present, motorists should roll up windows and turn on headlights.
Over the last 20 years, park managers have conducted burns during the spring and fall under specific parameters, or prescriptions, to safely reduce fuels, restore meadow habitats, and maintain the historic landscape of Cades Cove. Park staff closely monitor fire weather conditions including vegetation and soil moisture, wind speed and direction, temperature, and relative humidity to ensure that conditions meet the burn plan objectives for the site. The weather and precipitation forecast in the East Tennessee area over the next few weeks will improve the opportunity to meet prescription parameters.
For more information on the use of prescribed burns in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, visit the park website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/nature/wildlandfire.htm.