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.

Backing fire from hand ignition on Swale Burn in 2006. The park now uses aerial ignition on larger burns to mitigate smoke issues.

Park Celebrates a Decade of Successful Fire Management

Kings Mountain National Military Park, South Carolina
National Fire Plan, Fuels Reduction*

When he became Chief Ranger and collateral-duty Fire Management Officer at Kings Mountain National Military Park, Chris Revels saw the need for an active fire management program. Fire had been excluded since the park's authorization in 1931 and southern pine beetle had all but decimated the park's short leaf pine population, causing significant fuel loading.

Aerial view of the Battlefield area. Note reduced understory as a result of three prescribed burns. Click for a larger version.

Fuel loading was not the only major issue. The piedmont hardwood forest sorely lacked the character and biodiversity from that of the 1780's when the patriot forces defeated Major Patrick Ferguson at the Battle of Kings Mountain. After six years of planning, the park initiated its first prescribed burn in May 2000. Now, in 2010, the park celebrates its tenth year of active prescribed fire.

During the past decade, the park has conducted 74 prescribed burns totaling 7,257 acres and completed 32 mechanical projects (cut, hand pile, and mastication) totaling 658 acres in a park with a total of approximately 3,900 burnable acres. These accomplishments have aided the park in reducing major fuel loading, especially in the Wildland-urban interface, while simultaneously achieving cultural and natural resource management goals of increasing habitat for several species of concern including Georgia Aster and Eastern Turkeybeard. Many areas of the park are now taking on more of an 18th century appearance with reduced understory and native grasses.

As of 2010, the park has 13 fire-qualified employees and affiliated casual hires ("AD's") with myriad qualifications from Type 2 Burn Boss to Finance Section Chief. In 2004 the park instituted the Southeast Region fire internship program through a cooperative agreement with Clemson University. The interns are trained in basic wildland firefighting and wildland power saws and participate in prescribed burn and fire effects monitoring activities across the Southeast Region. During the past six years a total of 16 students have participated in the program, with 50% of those still working either full-time or part-time in fire management with the National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or state government. In 2006 the park took on the role of host for the Southeast Region's gyrotrac. Lead Forest Technician Alex Scronce, the machine's operator, has worked in 6 southeast region parks and the Francis Marion National Forest.

Left: Aerial view of the Battlefield area. Note reduced understory as a result of three prescribed burns. Right: Kings Mountain fire qualified staff and fire interns support burns at other NPS units, such as Gulf Islands National Seashore. Click for a larger version.

Kings Mountain has come a long way in ten years and looks to continue its success through continued dedication of the staff, support from the park superintendent and the Southeast Region fire management office, and the assistance of the Great Smoky Mountains Wildland Fire Module.

Contact: Chris Revels, Chief Ranger and Fire Management Officer
Phone: (864) 936-7921

*This story supports Department of the Interior initiatives.