Wildland Fire


Roller Coaster Fire Update - 7/23/17

National Park Service Fire staff has been monitoring the fire start along the Roller Coaster Trail. After initially showing minimal activity, the fire is now showing signs of life. The fire is currently around 1.5 acres.
As a result, the Roller Coaster Trail between Lost Trail and South Cut Trail is CLOSED. Please heed all posted trail signs.
Park staff continues to monitor the situation and will post updates when available.

Burned section of palmettos near a wetland
The fire burned 0.3 acres near a wetland along Roller Coaster Trail.

NPS Photo

Roller Coaster Fire - 7/17/2017

National Park Service staff investigated reports of a lightning caused fire along Roller Coaster Trail on Cumberland Island on July 17, 2017. A fire was identified along the trail that has burned approximately 0.3 acres. The fire did not exhibit active behavior. Isolated patches of smoke were still present. This fire currently poses no threat to the public, nor requires closures of the trail or wilderness camp grounds.

Wildland fire is dynamic, and conditions could change with short notice. Park fire personnel are monitoring conditions and updates will be posted on our website and social media if conditions change.

fire fighter in nomex gear with fire rake
Fire fighters took a largely "hands off" strategy and were able to allow the Hawkins Fire to burn naturally.

NPS Photo

Hawkins Fire Update - 04/15/2017

Cumberland Island's fire management staff are continuing to monitor the burn site but there has been no significant activity for several days. The fire management strategy for this incident was largely "hands off". The fire was allowed to burn naturally and remained within the area the crews had hoped for.

Brickhill Bluff Campground has been reopened.
fire truck from Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge
Agencies cooperate and share resources to meet the needs of fire management. This fire truck reported to the Hawkins Fire from Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

NPS Photo

Hawkins Fire Update - 4/12/2017

The Hawkins Fire has had no perimeter growth in the past 72 hours. The majority of heat is located within the already burnt area (in the black). Fire crews continue to monitor the 7 acre burn with two engines on scene. Additional fire resources that were called in to support the fire have been redeployed to an incident in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.
Displaying burn area north of Brickhill Campground
Burn area north of Brickhill Bluff Campground. Boundary encircled in red.

NPS Photo

Hawkins Fire Update - 04/08/2017

The Hawkins fire that was ignited by a lightning strike on 4/6/17 has grown slightly overnight. The burn now encompasses 7 acres and is continuing to show low behavior.

Lands & Legacies tours will resume their regular route to the north end of Cumberland Island tomorrow provided current fire conditions persist.

An eight person fire crew and engine have arrived from Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge to aid with fire management and additional resources are expected to arrive over the weekend.

The fire is within designated wilderness and continues to be managed for resource benefit. Firefighters are working to contain the fire to an area north of Brickhill Campground, south of Hawkins Creek and west of the main road. (See map)

Smoke from wildfire lit with sun rays
The Hawkins Fire started from a lightning strike associated with early morning thunderstorms on April 6th.

NPS Photo

Lightning strike fire being managed in Cumberland Island’s northern wilderness area.

(St. Marys, GA) A lightning strike has ignited a wildfire in the wilderness area on the north end of Cumberland Island. The park was alerted to the fire by a visitor who dialed 911 when he smelled smoke on the evening of April 6th. Park staff responded and are currently on scene monitoring fire behavior. The fire is located a 1/4 mile north of the Brickhill Bluff campground on the west side of the main park road. The burn is currently 5.7 acres in size and is being called the Hawkins Fire.

“Fire is an essential, natural process,” said Superintendent Gary Ingram, “that the island ecosystems rely on for rejuvenation, reproduction, and survival.” Fires that ignite naturally in the park’s designated wilderness area are managed for the benefit of the resource. Goals for reintroducing a healthy fire progression on Cumberland Island are outlined in the park’s 2015 Fire Management Plan.

The location of the fire is 10 miles north of the Sea Camp dock so there will be minimal impacts to day visitors. Smoke will be visible near the burn area. The Brickhill Bluff campground and Brickhill Trail have been closed and campers are being notified. Lands & Legacies Guided Tours are being restricted to Plum Orchard in the north, but additional stops are being incorporated on the southern end of the island.

Additional fire management resources will be responding. Cumberland Island National Seashore collaborates on fire management activities with its interagency partners, state and local cooperators, and members of the public.

Read more about fire management at Cumberland Island National Seashore in the
Fire Management Plan.

A wildfire on Cumberland Island burns in a stand of longleaf pine forest.
A wildfire burns through a stand of longleaf pines on Cumberland Island.

National Park Service

Why Fire Management

The National Park Service manages wildland fire to protect the public, communities and infrastructure, conserve natural and cultural resources, and restore and maintain ecological health.

Cumberland Island exhibits abundant vegetation and wildlife habitat, although much of the island's vegetation was altered by human activities before the National Seashore was established in 1972. In addition, vegetation and habitat have been altered through the general practice of suppressing all wildland fires, which has continued during NPS management on the island.

Longleaf pines are just one important ecosystem found on Cumberland Island. Longleaf pines and associated organisms evolved to not only withstand fire, but to be dependent on it for their survival. In order for longleaf pine seeds to germinate and grow, they must fall on open bare mineral soil, typically cleared by fire. In the absence of fire, pine needles and other forest debris will build up as ground litter and keep longleaf seeds from sprouting. Also, shade from a thick understory can kill longleaf seedlings. If this happens, as the mature longleaf pines die -- at an age of several hundred years -- they are replaced by broadleaved trees, such as oaks or hickories, and the whole ecosystem changes. This is the well-known ecological principle of succession.

Many plants and animals depend on the longleaf pine for their survival, thus making the longleaf pine habitat one of the most diverse habitats found in North America. For example, the gopher tortoises are important, for as many as 300 other animals use their 15-20 foot deep burrows. These include snakes, frogs, foxes, spiders, and beetles.

fire fighter lighting field for prescribed burn
Wildland fire fighter igniting Stafford Field for a prescribed burn

NPS Photo

Prescribed Burn Information - February, 2016

Update 02/23/16 - All burn operations have been completed on the island. Stafford Beach campground, all trails, and roadways are open for regular use. Check back for photos and video of prescribed burn operations.

The Beach Field burn near Dungeness has been cancelled due to weather conditions.

The date of the operation will be determined by the appropriate weather and atmospheric conditions.

In accordance with the park's Fire Management Plan, park staff will look to introduce fire to specific locations in the Stafford and Dungeness areas. This will be a multi-agency effort with wildland fire crews coming from across the country to support the operation.

Smoke impacts are likely near the burn areas. People with respiratory conditions should be cautious.

Cumberland Island National Seashore staff and its partners are working together to provide for a safe and successful operation.

Prescribed burns are subject to atmospheric and weather conditions. Particulars are subject to change. Thank you for your patience.

Last updated: July 23, 2017

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Mailing Address:

101 Wheeler St
St. Marys, GA 31558


(912) 882-4336

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