• Visitors bask in a golden sunset at Dickey Ridge Visitor Center in Shenandoah National Park

    Shenandoah

    National Park Virginia

Shenandoah National Park Fire Restrictions - Frequently Asked Questions

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Date: October 19, 2007

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Shenandoah National Park implementing fire restrictions?
Yes, effective on Wednesday, October 24, 2007 at 8:00 a.m.

What will the restrictions cover?
All wood, charcoal, coal or solid fuel fires will be prohibited throughout the park. This includes campgrounds, picnic areas and shelters.

The use of liquid or gas-fueled portable stoves in the backcountry will also be prohibited. Wood, charcoal, coal or solid fuel fires are already prohibited in the backcountry.

Smoking will be permitted only inside vehicles, established parking areas, in developed campgrounds, and in designated smoking areas inside buildings. Smoking will be prohibited on all trails.

Why are restrictions necessary?
Layers of downed leaves and dead branches from previous years can burn very quickly, particularly on the park’s many steep slopes. Mountain laurel and other evergreens are drought stressed. Under these conditions, fires can move more quickly and burn even more intensely than they would under normal conditions. Containing and controlling fires will be especially challenging. These restrictions will better provide for public safety and best protect park resources by reducing the number of unwanted fire starts.

How dry is the park?
Very. We are in a significant drought. The park has received approximately 15.5 inches of rain – less than half the normal amount for the year. The average is about 34 inches. The last time the park had similar conditions was in 2002. 

What is the park doing to prepare for the potentially hazardous conditions?
In addition to implementing fire restrictions, additional people and equipment are now here to assist with initial fire attack. USDA Forest Service firefighters from West Yellowstone, Montana and from Zion National Park are currently assisting Shenandoah staff by patrolling and working on fire related projects.

How will we notify park visitors?
Park visitors will be alerted to the fire restrictions through various methods. A message will be posted on the park main line (540-999-3500) and on the park’s website. A message will be added to the park’s Traveler Information Stations radio broadcasts. Signs will be posted at the entrance stations, in campgrounds, visitor centers, concessions facilities, at trailheads and headquarters. 

The park, the national forests and the state all have fire restrictions, but there are differences. Why?   
While the drought conditions are state-wide, how people enjoy and use the out of doors varies. For instance, the park is very popular with backcountry or wilderness campers. Because of the number of backcountry campers and the terrain they frequent, the park needs to eliminate their stoves as possible sources of fire starts. Fires do not recognize political boundaries, however, so what is important is that the agencies are working together to reduce the risk of wildfires under the drought conditions. 

For more information on the State’s restrictions, please contact the Virginia Department of Forestryhttp://www.dof.virginia.gov/index.shtml.

For information about national forests restrictions, check http://www.fs.fed.us/r8/gwj/, or call your nearest USDA Forest Service office.

For information about the Blue Ridge Parkway, check http://www.nps.gov/blri/parknews/newsreleases.htm

When are the park’s fire seasons?
In a normal year, fires in Shenandoah are most likely to spread mid-February to mid-May, and mid-October to mid-December. Under the right conditions, however, fires will burn any month of the year. For instance, drought conditions and scattered lightning produced at least four separate fires in the summer. There was also at least one human caused fire.

Once in place, how long will fire restrictions be in effect?
Once implemented, fire restrictions will remain in effect until conditions improve with significant rain or snow over time, improving the overall drought status of the park. Rainy days here and there do little to reduce the continuing risk of wildland fire starts.

May I hike in the park?
Yes. Remember that smoking is limited to vehicles, parking areas and campgrounds.

May I camp in park campgrounds?
Yes, campgrounds will be open as scheduled for camping, but campers will not be able to have wood, charcoal, coal or solid fuel fires. To cook, campers need to bring liquid or gas camping stoves.

May I use a lantern in park campgrounds?
Yes, lanterns may be used at campsites in the park.

Will the park refund my camping fee if I cancel since I can’t have a campfire?
No.  The park will not refund camping fees.

Will the park pay my cancellation fee if I cancel since I can’t have a campfire?
No.  The park will not refund or pay cancellation fees.

May I go backcountry camping?
Yes, but, as always, campfires are prohibited and a permit is required. And, because of the high fire danger, using camp stoves is also prohibited. Backpackers must be prepared to not have any open flames.

May I picnic in the park?
Yes, picnic areas will be open as scheduled, but visitors will not be able to have wood, charcoal, coal or solid fuel fires. To cook, visitors need to bring liquid or gas camping stoves. Also, remember that smoking is limited to vehicles and established parking areas.

May I have a fire in an indoor fireplace?
Yes, if the fireplace is in a fully enclosed building, such as a rented cabin, an indoor fireplace may be used for a fire

Did You Know?

A closeup of a mountain laurel blossom along Shenandoah's Skyline Drive.

Although it’s native to these mountains, much of the beautiful mountain laurel you see blooming along Skyline Drive in June was planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.