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.

A monument stone is obscured by smoke and surrounded by burned vegetation, while a cannon stands watch in the foreground.

A monument on the battlefield is obscured by smoke from the prescribed fire. NPS / Jesse Burton.

Horseshoe Bend Conducts Prescribed Burns

Horseshoe Bend National Military Park, Alabama
Cohesive Strategy—Maintain and Restore Resilient Landscapes*

On March 26, 2013, Horseshoe Bend National Military Park conducted multiple prescribed burns totaling over 400 acres as part of their prescribed fire plan.

Fire burns at the edge of woods

Prescribed burn operations took place on 400 acres of the park. NPS / Jesse Burton.

Two simultaneous burn operations began in North West 4 and in Interior Unit 3. Utilizing backing fire, hand ignition crews covered lots of ground limiting head fires and intensities. Holding crews assisted firing around multiple structures with their own firing operations allowing interior ignition crews to focus on the precise placement of fire over a large chunk of ground. With the Interior and North West units nearing completion, the Triangle unit was burned along with the Island unit which required the use of an NPS law enforcement ranger boat to ferry firefighters across the Tallapoosa River to the island.

Great Smoky Mountains Wildland Fire Module, Cumberland Gap Wildland Fire Module, Barrens to Bayous Fire Effects Network, The Nature Conservancy, Great Smoky Mountains National Park Engine 62, Kings Mountain National Military Park, Auburn University and local Horseshoe Bend National Military Park staff all contributed to the burn operations.

Acres treated were maximized for this narrow burn window in part due to interagency and intra-agency cooperation and planning. By staffing the fire with experienced resources, both the acreage treated and the resulting quality of the burn, as well as the associated excellent safety practices were enhanced.

The prescribed fire was based on the Horseshoe Bend National Military Park Prescribed Fire Plan, an omnibus plan for the pine and mixed hardwood ecosystem within the park’s fire management units (FMUs) 1 and 3.

The overall goals were to use fire to reduce hazard fuel accumulations and to restore and maintain a diverse and functioning ecosystem by reintroducing the historic role of fire as an ecological process to these fire-dependent communities.

Within the Northwest Complex is the remnant mountain longleaf pine (Pinus palustris), an unquestionably fire dependent species, and its accompanying ecosystem. This pine species is found on upper slopes within mixed hardwood species; however, it is at risk of local extirpation due to excessive duff buildup and excessive stand densities. These conditions create an environment unfavorable for longleaf pine regeneration and favorable for severe wildfires.

All ecological and fuels objectives were achieved for these prescribed fires. Conditions were favorable for surface fires and excellent litter consumption within the longleaf pine sites. Keeping the litter burned off should remove the source of new duff and allow total volumes of duff to slowly decrease through decomposition and mixing with mineral soils by soil organisms.

Some heavy fuels may have continued to burn for an additional day or two, but in general all active fire ceased by the following day, March 27, 2013.

Contact: Shane Paxton

Email: shane_paxton@nps.gov

Phone: (865) 430-4754

*This story supports the Department of the Interior initiatives.