The slow smolder: fire's off-season
Fire Effects work at Great Smoky Mountains National Park is in its down season; members of the crew are finishing their 2008 report to summarize burning activity during the year. They are hiring a new Fire Effects leader, because the former one is moving within the Park to Inventory and Management.
Burning and Bats
Fire officials sent out a request for additional funding to research the Indiana bat. This work will happen in June/July.
Endangered Squirrels, Burning, and Felling
Often, fire managers work in coordination with other programs in the Park. In this case, fire, wildlife, and backcountry managers coordinate efforts to protect endangered Northern Flying Squirrels in the forests. The squirrel uses tree cavities for nests, and biologists have created maps showing potential habitat around 4,500 feet in elevation. Scientists confirmed that squirrels did live in many of the predicted areas, but could often only check near roads through the steep, rugged terrain. Backcountry managers who decide where to fell trees, and fire managers who manage areas to be burned take this into consideration when they make plans.
The Fire Use Module based at Great Smoky Mountains National Park spent time in February in Florida and Mississippi. They burned one unit at Gulf Islands National Seashore in Mississippi. They also conducted a wildland urban/interface burn adjacent to private homes in the town of Ocean Springs, Mississippi. As weather deteriorated there, they moved their operations and assisted with burns at Vicksburg and Natchez Trace Parkway. The Module also assisted with a wildfire that was happening at the same time on the Natchez Trace Parkway. As of mid-February the Module was in Gulf Islands National Seashore in Florida, but the weather was not looking promising for further burns. Their next step is to travel to the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve and Fort Caroline National Memorial in Jacksonville, Florida, to a 140 acre burn unit. This will be the first prescribed burn this park has undertaken.
Preparing Cades Cove for Burning
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Fire Cache personnel have been working with Steven Shaper, in Vegetation Management, to prepare Cades Cove for this spring’s grasslands burning. The burning is carefully timed to avoid disturbing nesting ground birds and white tailed deer fawns. Also, they prepared to burn marked areas (called burn units) in forest areas near Cades Cove and the Cataloochee Valley.
Congratulations--It’s a Helicopter!
A helicopter came on contract here at Great Smoky Mountains on February 3rd. The helicopter will help in setting fires from the air over large tracts of land in Park Service burn units. The helicopter, or “ship,” as fire experts call it, will be based out of the Smokies, but will travel extensively in the southeast and possibly the midwest regions too. For 90 days, staff from Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota, the Black Hills National Forest, and the Wyoming Bureau of Land Management will help to run the ship. Click here to read and watch video about burning in the Black Hills National Forest.