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.

Calderwood Fire Reduces Hazard Fuels Safely and Cost-Effectively

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
National Fire Plan, Firefighting*

The Calderwood fire as it appeared on August 27, 2010 from Highway 129. Calderwood Lake is on the left. Click for a larger version.

On August 16th 2010, Great Smoky Mountains National Park Deputy Superintendant Kevin FitzGerald approved a new fire management plan for the park. This action culminated 18 months of development and planning activities aimed at increasing the flexibility of the park's response to wildland fire.

The following afternoon, a thunderstorm created an opportunity to exercise that flexibility. Just after 5:00 pm, a bolt of lightning found a receptive target on a ridgeline above the Calderwood Dam on the Little Tennessee River. Embers smoldered for days before becoming active enough for smoke to be reported to park headquarters. When firefighters hiked into the rough terrain, they discovered a 2.5-acre fire burning on private property owned by Tapoco, a power generation division of Alcoa.

Since the fire had the potential to burn onto park lands, National Park Service firefighters met with Tapoco staff and Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Division of Forestry personnel and agreed that the park would manage suppression efforts for the incident. In addition to the dam, other resources at risk included various power generation and administrative facilities, as well as traffic on Highway 129, a popular motorcycle route known as "The Tail of the Dragon."

Firefighters used existing access roads as holding lines mitigating the hazard of constructing extensive line over the steep ridge. Click for a larger version.

Park fire staff used existing roads as containment lines and allowed the fire to creep down from its ignition point on top of the ridge. Not only was this strategy safe and cost effective, it also allowed the fire to consume a significant amount of dead and down wood, reducing hazardous fuel loading in this area and making future fires more manageable. By the time the Calderwood Fire was fully contained, more than three weeks after it started, 130 acres of Tapoco property and 160 acres of park land had been treated.

Contact: David Loveland, Fire Management Specialist
Phone: (865) 430-4755

*This story supports Department of the Interior initiatives.