Photo courtesy Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Park plans prescribed burns in Cades Cove

(GSMNP) Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Appalachian Piedmont Coastal Fire Management Zone staff plan to burn approximately 1,200 acres of fields in Cades Cove. Weather permitting, burn operations will occur between Tuesday, November 1 and Tuesday, November 22. These seasonal controlled burns help perpetuate native herbaceous species that provide high quality cover and foraging opportunities for a diversity of wildlife including deer, turkeys, and ground nesting birds.

“Appalachian Piedmont Coastal Zone Fire Staff are excited to lead prescribed burn operations in Cades Cove this year to meet field restoration goals in the Smokies,” said Fire Management Officer Brian Tonihka. “Notably, we will be using Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) in ignition operations for the burns, which will be a first for the National Park Service in the Southeast region. This new technology provides a great opportunity to improve efficiency and operational safety.”

Over the last 20 years, park managers have conducted burns during the spring and fall under specific prescription parameters to safely reduce fuels, restore meadow habitats, and maintain the historic landscape of Cades Cove. Park staff closely monitor fire weather conditions including vegetation and soil moisture, wind speed and direction, temperature, and relative humidity to ensure that conditions meet the burn plan objectives for the site. Forecasted precipitation in the East Tennessee area over the next few weeks will improve the opportunity for prescription parameters to be met.

Visitors should expect to see firefighters and equipment along Sparks Lane, Hyatt Lane, and the Cades Cove Loop Road.  The closure of Sparks Lane and the access road and trailhead for the Abrams Falls Trail may be necessary during certain operational periods.  The loop road and historic structures will remain open to visitor use, but brief delays and temporary closures may occur to ensure public safety during burn operations.

Visitors should expect to see fire activity and smoke during prescribed burn operations. Fire managers ask that motorists reduce speed in work zones, but refrain from stopping in the roadways. If smoke is present, motorists should roll up windows and turn on headlights.  

For more information on the use of prescribed burns in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, visit the park website at

About Jim Harris

Jim Harris has been WYSH's News & Sports Director since 2000. In addition to reporting local news, he is the play-by-play voice for Clinton High School football, boys' and girls' basketball and baseball. Catch Jim live weekdays beginning at 6:30 am for live local news, sports, weather and traffic plus the Community Bulletin Board, shenanigans with Ron Meredith and more on the Country Club Morning Show on WYSH. Jim lives in Clinton with his wife Kelly and daughter Carolina, and cats Oliver, Bow and Libby.

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