Fire Stories

Fire stories from the national parks highlight events, incidents, and the like, associated with fire and fuels management, as well as fire education, technology, partnerships, and more. Stories highlight work related to Department of the Interior initiatives as well as local and regional initiatives.

A pile burns well at Petersburg National Battlefield in September 2009. NPS photo.

Petersburg Piles Burn as Planned

Petersburg National Battlefield, Virginia
National Fire Plan, Fuels Reduction*

Fire specialists successfully burned over 65 piles of logs and brush at Petersburg National Battlefield in May and September 2009. The goals were to reduce fuel loading and protect cultural resources in this park best known as a Civil War battlefield. Numerous trees had been heavily damaged or killed by southern pine bark beetles and 2003's Hurricane Isabel. In 2008, more trees were selectively cut to protect earthworks constructed and used for training troops headed to Europe during the Great War, WWI. In 2009, vista improvement at the Crater and Fort Stedman created additional piles for burning.

The 16 wildland firefighters came from Petersburg National Battlefield, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Battlefields Memorial National Military Park, Richmond National Battlefield Park, Appomattox Court House National Historical Park and Shenandoah National Park. They included a burn boss, two engine bosses - one for each engine, and thirteen firefighters. To monitor and mitigate any possible smoke issues, staffing included a night shift. Fires in six piles were put out to eliminate a brief-lived smoke problem during what turned out to be a short-term inversion. They were later re-ignited and the burns completed. There were no accidents or injuries.

Only twenty-five miles south of Richmond, Petersburg was an important supply center for the capital of the Confederacy. With its five railroad lines and key roads, both Generals Grant and Lee knew if these could be cut Petersburg could no longer supply Richmond. The 292-day siege of Petersburg by Union troops was the longest in American warfare. In the end, General Lee evacuated his forces from Petersburg and a week later surrendered his army to General Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. More information is available at

Contact: Barb Stewart, Fire Communication and Education Specialist, Northeast and National Capital Regions
Phone: (434) 220-9065

*This story supports the Department of the Interior initiatives.