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Contact: Vickie Carson, 270.758.2192
Mammoth Cave National Park staff are preparing now for three prescribed fires this spring.
“The park has conducted nineteen prescribed fires since 2002,” said Superintendent Patrick Reed. “This year we are targeting two areas near the visitor center, and one out on Joppa Ridge. There will no doubt be smoke on the roads on the days we burn, and the ferry and some trails will be closed temporarily for safety.”
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. Aerial ignition will be used again this year; it has proven to be the most effective and efficient method for initiating ridgetop fires.
Fire professionals from other parks travel to Mammoth Cave to plan, prepare the sites, and manage the fires. This year Mammoth Cave will receive assistance from Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, Natchez Trace Parkway, and Big South Fork National River and Recreational Area.
“We will manage these fires for a mottled or mosaic pattern,” added Reed. “The planned area for two of the burns is more than 2,000 acres, but only a portion of that land will burn. We ignite on the ridgetops and let the fire creep down into the valleys. The result is a spotty burn, which is good for forest health.”
Weather conditions for the prescribed fires and the resulting smoke are specific and will be monitored by the park. Smoke will be highly visible to the public during these operations and smoldering may continue for several days after the burn.
To keep the public well informed, the park will issue specific notices about temporarily closures required for each location will be issued at the time the prescribed fires are conducted. A brief summary of the 2010 biological assessment, which requires that all fires be completed by April 30, is provided below.
Floating Mill Hollow / Onyx Meadows Burn Unit
The Floating Mill Hollow/Onyx Meadow burn unit, 2,487 acres, is located on Flint Ridge south of Green River, and includes the following drainages: Three Sisters Hollow, Holton Hollow, Rigdon Hollow, Taylor Coates Hollow, Eaton Valley, and Floating Mill Hollow. Prescribed fire in this area near the park headquarters complex will reduce fuel loads which will, in the case of a wildland fire, slow the fire’s spread and reduce its intensity. Prescribed fires reduce the rate of woody brush invasion into open areas and provide beneficial long-term effects for a variety of species. Post-fire management of invasive species including Lespedeza cuneata and Lonicera japonica will be needed.
Joppa Church Burn Unit
The Joppa Church burn unit, 2,328 acres, is located at the northwest end of Joppa Ridge, south of Green River. The burn unit includes areas surrounding the historic Joppa Church. Reducing fuels in this area will provide enhanced protection of this historic structure from wildfires.
Bruce Hollow Glade Burn Unit
The Bruce Hollow Glade burn unit, 112 acres, is located to the west of the Mammoth Cave campground, within the Echo River Spring drainage. The use of prescribed fire at this site would benefit the area by reducing the grass litter, increasing the forbs, reducing the density of the woody species along the edge of the glades and increasing the light reaching the ground layer. The woods are rich with herbaceous species and fire would reduce the understory of sapling red maples and help to maintain open woodland for a diverse array of understory wild flowers.
- NPS -