On May 1, 2013, wildland firefighters in Great Smoky Mountains National Park began a prescribed burn in the 372-acre Jesse Ridge subunit as part of the 3,580-acre Canadian Top Prescribed Fire Plan for the pine and mixed hardwood ecosystem found on the ridges surrounding the Cataloochee Valley area in the eastern portion on the North Carolina side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The goals of the plan include using fire to reduce hazardous fuel accumulations and to restore and maintain a diverse and functioning ecosystem by reintroducing the historic role of fire as an ecological process to the fire-adapted communities.
The Great Smoky Wildland Fire Module with the Southern Appalachian Fire Effects Team filled overhead positions and firing and holding groups with additional help from the park’s Engine 62 Crew and a couple of firefighters from the park’s Wildlife and Vegetation Management divisions.
After a 1.5-hour hike into the unit, the test fire was lit on Jesse Ridge. And in a nod to Mother Nature, the fire was allowed to back down the slopes, truly mimicking a natural lightning strike. Using flowing streams, shaded fuels, and precise ignitions, the Jesse Ridge prescribed fire was allowed to burn on its own while foregoing typical prescribed fire black-lining operations that essentially burn from the outside in.