The Great Smoky Mountains National Park fire management crew plans to conduct a prescribed burn on a 1,876-acre forested area northwest of Cades Cove between March 9 and March 31, 2015. The Stony-Arbutus Ridge fire operations will occur over a period of several days. The total area to be burned is divided into three subunits that will be ignited separately as weather conditions allow.
Visitors should expect to see firefighters and equipment in Cades Cove near Cooper Road Trail, Abrams Falls Trail, and the Elijah Oliver Cabin. Cooper Road Trail will be closed between Stony Branch and Arbutus Branch during fire operations. Abrams Falls Trail will remain open, but hikers should expect delays due to short-term closures along the trail between Stony Branch and Arbutus Branch during fire operations. Depending on precipitation levels, residual smoke may be visible in the area for several days following burn operations.
“We are applying prescribed burning techniques that we have refined over the past few years which have proven to be highly successful in mimicking a natural ignition from Mother Nature,” said Park Burn Boss Shane Paxton. “We will have a very experienced team of fire managers on the ground to ensure the prescribed fire is meeting the desired objectives.”
The purpose of this prescribed fire is to reduce hazardous fuel accumulations and to restore a diverse and functioning fire-dependent ecosystem. Trees throughout the area have been killed by pine bark beetles resulting in a high fuel load of dead and down woody materials. The prescribed burn will help reduce these hazardous fuels and brush, while also helping to restore the mature yellow pine-oak forest native to the site. The unit was last treated with prescribed fire in 2006.
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/dff8-meet.htm