Don’t be surprised if you see a few brush fires being watched in the Cades Cove area this week. Great Smoky Mountains National Park fire management personnel will be conducting a few controlled burns in Cades Cove Nov. 5-9. Of course, this is one dependent on weather cooperation.
In all, about 570 acres are tabbed to be burned as a part of this prescribed burn.
In order to keep Cades Cove’s fields from being reclaimed by forest, they are strategically being burned. Around 950 acres of fields are mowed twice a year that are visible to motorists and cyclists from the Cades Cove Loop Road. The Cove’s many other fields – totaling around 1,500 acres, are kept up by burning or mowing on a three-year rotation.
These seasonal controlled burns benefit the park as well as its inhabitants. They encourage new grass, providing high quality cover and opportunities for wildlife including deer, turkeys, and ground nesting birds who forage for food on the ground.
Without these prescribed burns, officials with the park say that Cades Cove would quickly convert to pine and hardwood forest, instead of the lush green meadows people are used to seeing.
The burn will be carried out by national park staff. Firefighters will ignite the grasslands each day and make sure the fire stays within its designated boundaries. Grass sections surrounding each field marked for burning have been cut short in order to contain the burned sections.
Cades Cove Loop Road will remain open this week but motorists may experience delays due to smoke or other safety concerns.
“Motorists are asked to reduce speed in work zones and if smoke is present, keep windows up and headlights on,” said Dave Loveland, fire management officer. “The public, of course, will notice smoke in the valley but it will dissipate quickly and not unduly impact their visit.”