Great Smoky Mountains National Park postpones controlled burn

Apr. 11, 2013 @ 11:28 PM

A park spokeswoman said a prescribed, or controlled, burn set for Wednesday in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been postponed.

"It's been postponed because of upcoming weather: high winds Wednesday evening due to rain moving in," spokeswoman Molly Schroer said. "We didn't want winds to come through and have the potential for a bigger fire. In order to do these burns, everything has to be perfect. A lot of them get planned but then canceled because we're waiting for perfect conditions."

The prescribed burn was to take place over 178 acres south of Wears Valley just inside the park, an area bounded by Wear Cove Gap Road, Indian Camp Branch, Little River Road and the park boundary.

Schroer said controlled burns are a way to reduce flammable debris, fuel for potential uncontrolled fires.

"It reduces things like leaf litter, twigs, things on the forest floor," Schroer said. "We see this as a part of nature, but fire is a part of nature. It would go through a forest every few years in a cycle. that's what these operations do, reduce the potential for fires."

The park hasn't set a new date for the prescribed burn, and it may not even be necessary, Schroer said.

"It depends. We're getting toward the end of fire season, and we have times where we don't burn because of resources in the area," Schroer said. "It may not happen at all this year, or it may be delayed."

The last time the park executed a prescribed burn for this section of the park was in 2009. Schroer said prescribed burns are common throughout federal parks, but the amount of time they take depends on a few factors.

"It depends on how big the area is, how much fuel is on the ground and the area we're burning, the topography," she said. "But we monitor everything throughout the process."

Roundtop Trail will be closed during the rescheduled burn, if it takes place. Wear Cove Gap Road will remain open, and Schroer doesn't believe any road closures will be necessary.

"But there will be equipment on the roadways, and visitors will they see crews out and about," Schroer said. "There also could be smoke in the area."

rhargett@themountainpress.com