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.

Safety Training before prescribed fire

Burn boss Pete Jerkins gives a safety briefing before the Gobblers Knob prescribed fire.

Big South Fork Launches Successful Landscape Burns

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area
National Fire Plan, Fuels Reduction*

Over the course of two days in March, 2009 Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area successfully conducted two large, landscape scale burns totaling almost 6000 acres. This was the largest prescribed fire in the five-year history of Big South Fork’s fire program. Under the leadership of Pete Jerkins and the Cumberland Gap Wildland Fire Module, more than 30 firefighters from Big South Fork, neighboring parks and a Job Corp crew from the Daniel Boone National Forest conducted the burn safely and without incident, significantly reducing hazardous fuels in the park.

The first unit was ignited on March 21, 2009, at 2,470 acres. Although major trails and roads were used to establish control lines with very limited hand line construction, the heavy amount of standing dead trees along the lines necessitated considerable preparatory work to get the two units ready for ignition. Aerial ignition was used in order to complete such a large burn and to be ready to conduct the second burn the next day while the resources were still in the area. The burn went well and mop-up was completed as dusk settled over the park. The usual rising humidity levels made keeping the large fire within control lines relatively easy.

Reducing fire hazard at Gobblers Knob through prescribed fire.

Gobblers Knob prescribed fire reduced the hazard fuels.

The weather pattern the following day was similar to that of the previous day. By late afternoon another 3,333 acres had been burned in a mosaic pattern, reducing the fuels loads over a wide area of the park’s western boundary. The total length of control line for the two burn units came to 16 miles. Big South Fork NRRA personnel continued to monitor the burns over the next few days with no problems encountered.

Resource Management personnel monitored the burn areas over the summer and considered them to be very successful in reaching the desired results of fuels reduction as well as achieving resource management objectives.

This successful first attempt at such a large, landscape size prescribe fire allowed the park fire and resource management staffs to add large fire units to the updated fire management plan. Over the next five years the park plans to ignite several more landscape size fires to reduce hazardous fuels and restore a fire-adapted ecosystem.

Contact: Frank Graham, Fire Management Officer
Phone: (423) 569-9778

*This story supports Department of the Interior initiatives.