Smoky Mountains National Park responds to four fires

Fire fighters at Great Smoky Mountains National Park on April 28 fought three different wildland fires on National Park property.

Park firefighters were working with Bureau of Indian Affairs to contain the Stony Ridge Fire, which began in the Big Cove community of the Qualla Boundary Reservation near Cherokee, N.C. That fire was estimated at between 1,000 and 1,500 acres late Monday, but only a small portion is within Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

At about 9:30 p.m. on Monday, the Park discovered a second fire, which is called the Laurel Falls II Fire which originated at Laurel Falls, a very popular hiking destination about 5 miles west of Gatlinburg. That fire was apparently started by an illegal campfire. Park fire managers flew a helicopter reconnaissance of that fire at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, April 27, and estimated it to be about 100 acres. An air tanker based in Chattanooga has been dropping 2,100 gallon loads of water and fire retardant in the fire’s path to slow its spread. The Laurel Falls Trail is closed to public use until further notice.

A fire in the Cobbly Knob community east of Gatlinburg burned up to the roads that form boundary of the right-of-way of the Park-owned Foothills Parkway. Numerous local fire agencies have responded to that fire.

While not classified as a wildfire, Park firefighters are also at work suppressing flare-ups within an area near Wear Cove Gap where the Park conducted a prescribed burn on April 17. It is not unusual for embers to continue to smolder within heavy logs and stumps for over two weeks and then flare up when fanned by wind and dry conditions, park officials said.

About a quarter of an acre of leaf litter and dead wood is currently burning, all of it within the perimeter area blackened by the prescribed burn. To insure that no embers put up by the hot spots get carried by wind outside of the fire lines, firefighters have dug a narrow fire line around it and are working to extend a hose line to wet down the areas of concern. The Roundtop Trail which extends westward from Wear Cove Road has been closed to hikers.

To assist the Park in its fire suppression efforts, two 20-person Type-2 hand crews and two Type-1 “Hotshot Crews” have been ordered. A light helicopter is also being used to dump small, 100 gallon buckets of water onto hot spots on both the Laurel Falls II and the Wear Cove Gap burn.

In addition to the Laurel Falls and Rountop Trails, the Park has also closed Little Greenbrier Tail at Wear Cove Road, Little Brier Gap Trail and Cove Mountain Trail.

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