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    Great Smoky Mountains

    National Park NC,TN

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Fire Effects

Issue 8 > Meet the Managers > Fire Effects

Pine forest pre-fire.

A pine forest pre-controlled burn. Watch the trees at the right and center of the photo for reference below.

NPS photo.

The Fire Effects Crew monitors the short- and long-term effects of fire on native plant communities. To understand how fire has changed a landscape, they must first carefully document the plants, animals, and other characteristics of the burn site before fire affects it. They create study plots—small, rectangular areas that they mark with (nonflammable) metal posts so they’ll be able to find the same spot after the burn—and document every single species they find within each one. They also note the health of the vegetation in the plots—whether native plants thrive, which plants are growing together in a community, and the overall number of different plants, which indicates diversity.

Forest two years after fire.

One year after the controlled burn.

NPS photo.

The fire effects crew travels to controlled burn sites throughout the Southeast region, and often helps prepare the site by moving fuel, cutting down hazard trees, and taking fuel (e.g. leaf litter) moisture and weather readings. They may help ignite the fire using drip torches, and are on scene to help control the fire’s edges and monitor the fire’s behavior.

Forest one year after fire.

Two years after the fire, an understory is starting to return, but trees have room to grow.

NPS photo.

Immediately after the fire, and in the seasons after the controlled burn, the fire effects crew returns to the study plots and documents which plants have regrown and how the overall plant community has responded. They carefully document each site with photographs to show change over time.

See what role these other teams play in putting fire on the ground: Engine crew and Wildland Fire Module.

Did You Know?

Marbled salamanders are one of 30 salamander species native to the park.

There are at least 30 different species of salamanders in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This gives the Smokies the distinction of having the most diverse salamander population anywhere in the world and has earned the park the nickname “Salamander Capital of the World.” More...