Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Appalachian Piedmont Zone fire management staff plan to burn approximately 800 acres of fields near Hyatt Lane and the western end of Cades Cove. Weather permitting, burn operations will occur Thursday, February 16th through Sunday, February 19th.
Over the last 20 years, park managers have conducted these burns during the spring and fall under specific prescription parameters to safely restore meadow habitats. Park staff closely monitor fire weather conditions including woody fuel and soil moisture, wind, and relative humidity to ensure that conditions meet the burn plan objectives for the site. These seasonal controlled burns help perpetuate native herbaceous species that provide high quality cover and foraging opportunities for a diversity of wildlife including deer, turkeys, and ground nesting birds.
“The selected fields will be burned to restore meadow species, prevent the open fields from being reclaimed by forest, and to reduce hazard fuels,” said National Park Service Burn Boss Chris Corrigan.
Visitors should expect to see firefighters and equipment along Hyatt Lane and the western end of the Cades Cove Loop Road. The loop road and historic structures will remain open to visitor use, but brief delays and temporary closures may occur to ensure public safety during burn operations. Park staff will be present to answer questions during operations at overlooks and parking areas.
Visitors should expect to see fire activity and smoke during controlled burn operations. Fire managers ask that motorists reduce speed in work zones, but refrain from stopping in the roadways. If smoke is present, motorists should roll up windows and turn on headlights.
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.
TetonHikingTrails.com The Smoky Mountain Hiker is the author of the Smoky Mountain Hiking Blog and the online trail guide, HikingintheSmokys.com