GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) — Nearly 1,000 acres in Cades Cove are scheduled to be burned in the Cades Cove area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in February.

The prescribed burns will occur between Monday, Feb. 13 and Friday, March 3, the park service said in a press release.

Firefighters plan to burn Maple Branch, Tipton Oliver, and Cemetery Marsh as seen on this map. Cades Cove Loop Road and historic structures will remain open to visitors during burn operations, but brief delays may occur to ensure public safety.

Fire managers ask that motorists reduce speed in work zones, and refrain from stopping in the roadways. If smoke is present, motorists should roll up windows and turn on headlights. 

Sparks Lane may be closed, and other temporary road closures or traffic control may be implemented if crews and equipment are working along the edge of the road or if smoke causes unsafe driving conditions, the park service said.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Appalachian Piedmont Coastal Fire Management staff planned the prescribed burns.

“We are fortunate to have assistance from Conservation Legacy wildland firefighters for our spring prescribed fires,” said Fire Management Officer Brian Tonihka. “Their skilled application of prescribed fire is critical to the health of the natural ecosystem at Cades Cove and the safety of our visitors.” 

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, the park said in the press release.

The three units are the last to be treated with prescribed fire in the Cades Cove area this prescribed fire season, the park service said. Last fall, firefighters successfully burned about 250 acres in the Cable House and Sparks areas to target woody plant species that were encroaching into the fields.

Over the last 20 years, park managers have conducted burns during the spring and fall under conditions to safely reduce fuels, restore meadow habitats, and maintain the historic landscape of Cades Cove.