Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Appalachian-Piedmont-Coastal Zone fire management announced in a press release Tuesday they plan to burn approximately 660 acres of fields on the western end of Cades Cove.

Weather permitting, the burn will happen on three separate days beginning today, and ending Friday, Dec. 20.

Today’s burn will begin at noon in the old-field burn unit near the Abrams Falls Trailhead.

“The selected fields will be burned to restore meadow species, prevent the open fields from being reclaimed by forest, and to reduce hazardous fuels,” Fire Management Officer Greg Salansky said in the release.

Park managers have completed these burns for 20 years during the spring and fall. But they have to be conducted with specific prescription parameters to safely maintain the historic landscape of Cades Cove.

Park staff will closely monitor fire weather conditions including vegetation and soil moisture, wind speed and direction, temperature and relative humidity to ensure that conditions meet their burn objectives.

These seasonal controlled burns help perpetuate native herbaceous species that provide high-quality cover and foraging opportunities for wildlife including deer, turkeys and ground nesting birds, the release said

Visitors should expect to see firefighters and equipment along Hyatt Lane and the western end of the Cades Cove Loop Road. The loop road and historic structures will remain open for visitors, but there may be brief delays and temporary closures to ensure public safety during burn operations.

Park staff will be present to answer questions during operations at overlooks and parking areas.

Visitors should expect to see fire and smoke during prescribed burn operations. Fire managers have asked motorists to slow down in work zones without stopping in the road. They also recommended drivers roll up their windows and turn on their headlights.

For more information on the use of prescribed burns in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, interested Blount residents should visit the park website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/nature/wildlandfire.htm.

The Daily Times will provide updates on burn days as they occur.

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