Wolf Trap Completes First-ever Prescribed Fire

Firefighters use hand tools and drip torches in meadow in front of building.
Firefighters ignited the first prescribed fire at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in April 2018.

NPS / N. KING

On April 6, 2018, NPS firefighters successfully completed a prescribed fire in Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts’s one-acre native meadow. The goals were to return nutrients to the soil, help native species’ seeds germinate, and control non-native plants such as stiltgrass. This was the first prescribed fire in Wolf Trap, as well as the first prescribed fire on federal land in Fairfax County, Virginia. Firefighters completed the action in about one hour. Prince William Forest Park, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, Rock Creek Park and Fairfax County Department of Fire and Rescue assisted Wolf Trap staff.

Firefighters use driptorch and hand tools near fence.
Firefighters intentionally created slow-moving and fast-moving fires in different areas of the meadow.

NPS / N. KING

“This was a safe and successful prescribed fire,” Park Superintendent George Liffert said. “We are thankful for the effort the team put in to plan and execute this operation, and we are eager to see the results.”

The plan called for using the terrain and wind conditions to test how different types of fire would affect the meadow’s plants. Firefighters intentionally created slow-moving and fast-moving fires in different areas of the meadow. This method will allow park scientists to study the results of different types of fire and help the National Park Service make informed decisions in future actions.

Tree and meadow with mainly brown grasses. Fence and building in background Tree and meadow with blackened grasses and soot. Fence and building in background
The meadow area before the prescribed fire. NPS / N. KING
The meadow area after the prescribed fire. NPS / N. KING



A sign indicating that the area is an "Audubon at Home - Wildlife Sanctuary"
The prescribed fire will help improve the wildlife sanctuary.

NPS / N. KING

The native meadow is a bowl-shaped landform surrounded by the paved approach to the Filene Center’s main gate. Previously a mowed grass area, it was converted to native plants in 2012. The area serves as an outdoor classroom and as a beautiful haven for native plants, pollinators, and other wildlife.

Last updated: April 12, 2018