Submitted by Bob Miller
National Park Service
Fire managers at Great Smoky Mountains National Park plan to conduct a series of controlled burns of fields in Cades Cove on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, Nov. 4-6, if weather conditions permit. Park managers plan to burn several tracts west of Hyatt Lane on Wednesday and then burn the interior of the Loop between Hyatt Lane and Sparks Lane Thursday and Friday.
The selected fields which total about 450 acres are being burned as part of a cost-effective strategy to prevent the open fields from being reclaimed by forest. The Park contracts to mow about 950 acres of fields that are clearly visible from the Cades Cove Loop Road twice a year. Other fields that are less visible from the Loop Road, totaling around 1,000 acres, are kept open by burning or mowing on a three year rotation. Most years the Park completes the Cades Cove burns in March or April, but has moved the project forward because the Loop Road will be closed from March 1 through May 21 next year.
Park firefighters and a Park engine will be assigned each day to ignite the grass lands and to make sure the fire stays within its prescribed boundaries. Strips of grass surrounding each field slated for burning have been mowed short to provide containment lines.
“At this point we do not expect to have to close the Cades Cove Loop Road, but will monitor the situation for smoke or other safety hazards,” said Park Fire Management Officer Mark Taylor. “The public, of course, will notice smoke in the valley but it will dissipate quickly and not unduly impact their visit,” he said.