Cowpens National Battlefield will conduct the first of three controlled burns on Wednesday, February 20, 2008. Park crews will establish the controlled fire between the Loop Road and the park boundary along Highway 110. The Loop Road may be closed on the day of the burn and some areas of the park may be closed to visitor entry.
“Controlled burns” are just what the name implies: small fires that are applied strategically to avoid out of control fires during the peak fire season. These fires are intended to reduce the amount of underbrush so that any wildfire can be more easily controlled before threatening nearby homes and buildings.
In addition, these fires help maintain the health of the forest by clearing the understory and returning nutrients to the soil. Most of the native species are adapted to this type of burn, but would not survive a catastrophic fire that can occur after years of dead wood and debris collects on the forest floor. As a result, these fires benefit both the park and the park neighbors.
Between 2003 and 2006, Cowpens National Battlefield has used prescribed fire inside the Loop Road to restore native grasses and to allow sunlight to reach the forest floor. Area residents will be able see the smoke. Small areas of smoke and flames may be visible for several days; however, this is not a cause for concern. The National Park Service will continue to monitor these areas until the fire is out.
“We’ve identified several areas along the park boundary where a planned burn will help limit the size of any ‘wild’ fires. The National Park Service has to account for a lot of details in these burns,” said Tim Stone, Park Superintendent. “We don’t just contain the fire, we plan for the direction the smoke will blow and the effect the burn will have on the experience of visitors traveling through the park. We also want to make certain that folks in Chesnee and Gaffney aren’t alarmed when they see the smoke. We are monitoring the drought and won’t conduct these burns unless conditions are favorable.”
The National Park Service’s Fire Use Module from Cumberland Gap National Historical Park will oversee the burn. They have extensive fire experience in the southeastern United States. If weather permits, the burn will begin in the late morning and continue into the late afternoon.
People with questions about fire in the National Parks are encouraged to learn more at http://www.nps.gov/fire/educational/education.html. In the event that someone needs to contact the park concerning the burn, the contact number is (864) 461-2828.