Controlled fire underway at Cades Cove now through Nov. 25

Cades Cove prescribed fire
Burn operations will be underway from Nov. 7 through Nov. 25. (photo courtesy of the National Parks Service)

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The Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Appalachian Piedmont Coastal Zone fire management staff, plan to burn approximately 689 acres of fields in Cades Cove this week.

Cades Cove is an isolated valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The prescribed fire at Cades Cove will be underway from Saturday, Nov. 7 through Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. 

Park managers have conducted these burns over the last 20 years in the spring and fall. These fires, under specific prescription parameters, 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.

“Appalachian Piedmont Coastal Zone Fire staff are looking forward to supporting Great Smoky Mountain National Park’s field restoration goals in Cades Cove utilizing the skilled application of prescribed fire,” said Acting Fire Management Officer Shane Paxton.

“Multiple workforce divisions in the park will be participating with us and ample opportunities for viewing the burn operations exist in Cades Cove for the public,” said Paxton.

Read Also: An Insider’s guide to Cades Cove in 8 easy tips

Cades Cove prescribed fire
A map of the prescribed burns area (image courtesy of the National Park Service)

Will Cades Cove be open during the prescribed burn? 

Visitors should expect to see firefighters and equipment along Sparks Lane, 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.

Specifically, the crew plans to burn the following units depicted in orange on the map above:

  • 58-acre field near the Methodist Church
  • 33-acre Upper Tater Branch field
  • 226-acre Hyatt Lane Increase Fields
  • 323-acre Hyatt Lane/Primitive Baptist Church field
  • 49-acre Rowans Branch field

Visitors should also expect to see fire activity and smoke during prescribed burn operations. Fire managers ask that motorists do their part by: 

  • reducing speed in work zones
  • refraining from stopping in the roadways
  • rolling up windows if smoke is present 
  • turning on headlights if smoke is present 

What is the purpose of a prescribed fire?

The National Park Service (NPS) works to preserve native plants and animals throughout the Great Smoky Mountains. Fire is one of the natural processes that some of these plants and animals depend on.

According to the NPS, there are two main goals of prescribed fires: 

  1. to invigorate a species or ecosystem that benefits from fire
  2. to reduce heavy accumulations of dead wood and brush 

When dead wood and brush accumulates, drought conditions could produce catastrophic wildfires. Prescribed fires work to prevent these type of catastrophic events before they happen.

Read Also: The real story behind the Gatlinburg fires of 2016

Cades Cove black bear
Cades Cove is a popular place to spot wildlife such as black bears (stock photo)

About Cades Cove in Tennessee

The Cades Cove Loop is located a few miles beyond the Townsend Park entrance. It is an easily accessible, broad valley surrounded by the mountains and is a popular viewing spot for guests of the Smokies.

It’s a popular destination for those who wish to see wildlife such as black bears, turkeys, white-tailed deer and other animals. Cades Cove is rich in history, with the first settles arriving between 1818-1821.

Throughout the loop, guests will find churches, barns, log homes, a working grist mill and more. If you are touring Cades Cove, plan to spend a few hours traveling the loop, and longer if you plan to walk any trails.

Cades Cove is located 27 miles from Gatlinburg and 9 miles from Townsend.

For more information on the use of prescribed burns in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, visit the park website.

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