Three prescribed fires planned at Mammoth Cave NP

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Date: February 26, 2007

For Immediate Release

Vickie Carson, 270/758-2192


Three Prescribed Fires Planned at Mammoth Cave NP


(MAMMOTH CAVE NATIONAL PARK -- February 26, 2007) Mammoth Cave National Park’s Fire Management Plan will continue in 2007, using fire as a management tool at three sites in the park. Prescribed fires are used to promote or control certain plant species, enhance wildlife habitat, protect personal property adjacent to the park boundary, and clear downed, dead trees that could fuel a large forest fire.          


“The park has conducted ten prescribed fires since 2002 and they have been very successful,” said Superintendent Patrick Reed. “We have some experience now in managing fire, and have learned some lessons. For instance, we have used aerial ignition for two years and find it to be the most economical method, and the least invasive on the land.”


In aerial ignition, a helicopter is used to drop small plastic balls in a grid pattern on the interior of the prescribed area. A chemical reaction is triggered in the balls as they are released from the helicopter. When the ball lands, the chemical reaction ignites the ball, as well as the surrounding twigs and duff on the ground. Circular spot-fires caused by each ball slowly burn toward one another, and burn themselves out. A helicopter, which will assist with prescribed fires in southeastern NPS areas, is stationed at the Glasgow Airport for the spring fire season.


“Fire is a natural process,” Reed added. “Over time, man’s influence has altered historic fire cycles leading to a dangerous and difficult build-up of vegetation in the nation’s wildlands. Here at Mammoth Cave, we are committed to a balanced fire program that will reduce hazards and realize the benefits of fire.”


A team of fire professionals assists park personnel in planning, preparing for, and managing prescribed burns. Cumberland Gap NHP and Great Smoky Mountains NP Fire-Use Modules are in the park this month building fire line, assisted by the Great Onyx Job Corps Fire Team.


A brief summary of the 2007 biological assessment, which requires that all fires be completed by April 30, is provided below. Please contact the park at 270/758-2192, or via email to, for a copy of the biological assessment; or view the biological assessment on the park website at


Dennison Ferry Area


Dennison Ferry prescribed fire area consists of 790 acres of oak-hickory forest with dense thickets of mature eastern red cedar. Prescribed fire in this area will increase diversity of under story species by reducing fuels as well as by thinning thickets of cedars. Along the east boundary of the burn unit, on the park boundary, prescribed fire will reduce hazardous fuels at the wildland urban interface/public-private lands interface.


Big Woods Area


The Big Woods prescribed burn unit encompasses 1,540 acres and harbors several distinct vegetation communities: uplands, ravine, river slope, and riparian. Each community requires a specific fire prescription. 


This site contains one of the larger tracts of old growth forest in Kentucky and is designated a Natural Heritage Site by the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission – 300 acres, with white oaks and southern red oaks commonly more than three feet in diameter, and some tulip poplar more than four feet in diameter. The Big Woods also harbors more American chestnuts, sprouted from the blighted stumps, than any location in the park. A 30-foot diameter fuel-free zone will be established around the trees. Wilson Cave, home to the endangered Indiana Bat, requires a special consideration in the fire prescription in that the outside air temperature must be above 54 degrees so the cave will “breathe out”, and not cause smoke to enter the cave.


Chaumont Area


The Chaumont prescribed fire area consists of 53 acres located in the lower portion of a karst valley. It holds remnants of native prairie, including many barrens species (coneflowers, compass plant, blazing star and several native grass species) and five species of sedges, as well as rushes and royal fern adjacent to a pond. Helianthus eggertii (Eggert’s sunflower) grows along the edge of an open area and is threatened by encroachment. Prescribed fire will reduce nonnative clovers, grasses, vines, and other woody plants, freeing the native species from competition. Chaumont is on the south boundary of the park. In cooperation with adjoining landowners and the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the burn area includes some private property in order to avoid construction of mid-slope fire control lines. 


- NPS -

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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P.O. Box 7
Mammoth Cave, KY 42259-0007


(270) 758-2180

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