NATIONAL PARK — Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Appalachian-Piedmont-Coastal Zone fire management staff plan to burn 428 acres of fields in Cades Cove on Thursday, Feb. 25.
Weather permitting, this acreage includes the 90-acre Rowans Branch unit along Sparks Lane and the 338-acre Primitive Baptist Church unit along Hyatt Lane. The Primitive Baptist Church, Primitive Baptist Church Road, and Hyatt Lane will be closed during burn operations to all motorists and pedestrians.
The Cades Cove 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. Visitors should also expect to see fire activity and smoke during prescribed 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.
Over the last 20 years, park managers have conducted these burns during the spring and fall under specific prescription parameters 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. 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.
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.