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.

Aerial photo of fire burning.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park gets more visitors than any other park in the country, which makes Cades Cove the busiest site in the nation's busiest park. With excellent dispersion conditions, smoke lifted out and dispersed on the transport winds without affecting visitors.

Annual Cades Cove Burn Maintains Cultural Landscape, Promotes Native Species

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Cohesive Strategy—Maintain & Restore Landscapes

At Great Smoky Mountains National Park, autumn means turning leaves and prescribed burning in Cades Cove, one of the park's most popular areas. On November 1, 2, and 8, 2011, firefighters conducted a 500-acre prescribed burn, treating approximately a third of the Cove's entire burnable acres.

With its mandate to maintain the cultural landscape of Cades Cove as it was when this area was used for agriculture, the National Park Service uses prescribed fire to kill hardwood saplings and brush that encroach on the fields. Left on their own, these plants would eventually grow up to replace the meadows with forest.

By burning in the fall, the park also helps reduce the amount of non-native fescue grass in the Cove. This cool-season grass, which was introduced to feed livestock, is severely affected by fall burning. By reducing the amount of fescue and exposing bare soil, autumn burns give the seeds of native grass species a chance to grow.

The burn was conducted by the Great Smoky Mountains Wildland Fire Module, assisted by the Great Smoky Mountains engine crew, the Cumberland Gap Wildland Fire Module, an engine captain from Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and a structural engine from the Townsend Volunteer Fire Department. The Great Smoky Mountains vegetation management crew also worked closely with the park fire management staff, filling several fire line positions. The burn thus served the purpose of increasing the park's fire management capacity and its ability to work with neighboring fire departments.

For local newspaper coverage of the burn, please see

Contact: Dave Loveland, Fire Management Officer


Phone: (865) 436-1247

*This story supports Department of the Interior initiatives.