Fire Stories

Fire stories from the national parks highlight events, incidents, and the like, associated with fire and fuels management, as well as fire education, technology, partnerships, and more. Stories highlight work related to Department of the Interior initiatives as well as local and regional initiatives.

Smoke of a Different Kind

Appomattox Prescribed Burn

Appomattox Court House National Historical Park
National Fire Plan, Firefighting*

It wasn’t the smoke of soldiers’ campfires. On February 9, 2009, the smoke rising from Ferguson Field came from the park’s first prescribed burn. The predominantly grassy 25-acres at Appomattox Court House National Historical Park burned according to plans. Why go to all the work? Prescribed fire is part of the field management program, restoring and maintaining native grasses and the historic cultural landscape.

Ferguson Field was one of the places soldiers camped awaiting the work of generals. On April 9, 1865, Commanding General of the Army of Northern Virginia Robert E. Lee surrendered his men to General-in-Chief of all United States Forces Ulysses S. Grant. Though several Confederate armies under different commanders remained in the field, Lee’s surrender signaled the end of the Southern States’ attempt to create a separate nation.

Trainee works on his task book.

A trainee makes progress on his task book

As always, safety was the first priority. No one was injured; everyone learned something and one trainee made progress on his task book. There were no smoke issues or closures. Smoke warning signs had been posted on nearby roadways, but smoke rose and dispersed quickly. A Lynchburg, Virginia newspaper sent a reporter and photographer to observe the work. Their stories, in words and pictures, made the front page and the paper’s website.

Vegetation was certainly affected by the planned burn, primarily thatches of cool season grasses, cedar trees, and a few small pines. As desired, the fire appeared to create better opportunities for native grasses. Monitoring will continue in the months to come to see just how beneficial this first burn was for the park.

After the prescribed burn.

Contact: Barb Stewart, Fire Communication Specialist, Northeast & National Capital Regions
Phone: (434) 220-9065

*This story supports the Department of the Interior initiatives.