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Contact: Jan Lemons, 202-536-9071
Update: April 30, 2018
Fire professionals plan to conduct prescribed fires at Catoctin Mountain Park near Chimney Rock and Wolf Rock on May 1, 2018 to promote the growth of native plant and tree species and to rejuvenate up to 18 acres of park forest.
Closures will go into effect on May 1, 2018. Additional roads, trails and areas may need to close temporarily if smoke conditions reduce visibility to a level that would require a temporary closure of limited areas to ensure public and firefighter safety. Closures will remain in effect until fire managers can determine the overall safety of the area. Be sure to check our Alerts & Conditions page for further updates.
Prescribed fires reduce leaf litter and downed limbs, thereby also reducing the chance that unwanted wildfires will occur.
Teams of qualified wildland firefighters, with the support of local fire departments, will use prescribed fire to safely restore the natural process that our forests need to be healthy. Extensive safety measures will be in place to protect park visitors and neighbors during operations. All closed areas, roads, and trails will be clearly posted and announced on the park website at least 24 hours in advance. Fires will be ignited only after a thorough analysis of prevailing weather and site conditions. The fires will be conducted only during acceptable weather conditions necessary for controlling smoke and fire behavior. Firebreaks, such as trails or lanes that are cleared of flammable materials, will be used to prevent the fire from leaving the burn area.
Fire has been a natural process in Appalachian oak and pine forests for thousands of years. Many began as lightning strikes. American Indians once intentionally set fires to increase plant diversity, and early European settlers used fire as a tool to shape their landscape and promote blueberry growth. Humans began to suppress fires as populations increased early in the 20th century.
The absence of fire over the past 80-100 years has transformed area forests. Oak and some pine species are having difficulty regenerating due to the accumulation of leaf litter and competition with fire sensitive tree species such as red maple. Vegetation growth before and after the prescribed fires will be compared to determine the effects of the fires.
Up-to-date information on this and other closures and fire activity will be posted on the park's website (www.nps.gov/cato) and the park’s facebook page (www.facebook.com/CatoctinNPS)
Catoctin Mountain Park is one of 417 national parks cared for by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. Correspondence should be addressed to: Superintendent, Catoctin Mountain Park, 6602 Foxville Road, Thurmont, MD 21788. General information can be obtained through the park website at www.nps.gov or by calling the Visitor Center at (301) 663-9388.