KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The U.S. Forest Service will be conducting prescribed burns in the Tellico and Ocoee ranger districts of the Cherokee National Forest this weekend and into early next week. Smoke may be visible along roads and in surrounding areas.
Areas to be burned include the following locations in Monroe County:
- Wildcat– between Wildcat Creek Road and the Tellico River Road
- Waucheesi– along the Waucheesi Mt. Road (Forrest System Road 126C). FSR126 C will be temporarily closed on Sunday for the safety of forest visitors.
- Miller Ridge– between Lost Cove Branch Road, Tavern Branch Road and Rafter Road.
- Maple Knob– between Tellico River Road and Bald River Road
- Green Cove- between Tellico River Road and Bald River Road
- Buck Branch– between Cherohala Skyway and the Tellico River Road.
There are also two burn units in Polk County to be burned early next week, including:
- Rough Creek– between FSR 221 and the Ocoee River.
- Laurel Branch– between FSR 221L, Tumbling Creek and the Ocoee River.
The Forest Service manages prescribed fire by evaluating several factors, including the impact of smoke on humans. Weather, fuels, ignition options and local factors that will reduce/mitigate or influence smoke production duration, quantity, density, and direction are carefully analyzed before prescribed burns are conducted.
The Cherokee National Forest maintains a notification list for people with smoke sensitivities. You can be added to this list by contacting the Ranger District office in your area.
“At any point during a prescribed burn a decision can be made to stop burning if conditions are not right. Safety is top priority of every prescribed burn. Before we begin any burn, managers consider the safety of people, property and the natural resources,” said Trent Girard, fire management officer for the Cherokee National Forest.
Growing conditions in East Tennessee allow burned areas to quickly green up within a relatively short period of time, officials said.
Before prescribed burns are conducted on national forest land, a “prescription” is written by Forest Service resource specialists. A prescription identifies objectives of the proposed burn, examines possible environmental impacts, addresses smoke dispersal, describes how and when the burn will be conducted and under what weather conditions. After a prescription has been approved, fire management personnel go about the task of planning and conducting the burn.
Prescribed burns reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfires by removing vegetation (fuel) that accumulates and creates a fire hazard. Prescribed fire improves habitat for wildlife by opening the forest floor up to light and encouraging the growth of native grasses, forbs and other plants that provide food and shelter for many species. Certain trees cannot tolerate shady conditions created by other species. Prescribed fire reduces certain types of vegetation that compete for light, moisture, and nutrients. It also reduces the leaf litter on the forest floor which often prevents seed germination for natural reproduction of desirable tree species and other vegetation.
Forest Service managers say that because of changing weather conditions, it is difficult to say exactly what days burns will be conducted. In many cases the decision to burn cannot be made until the day of the burn. As weather conditions allow, prescribed burning will be going on throughout the spring. Prescribed burning information is posted on the Cherokee National Forest web site.
Information will be recorded on the Tellico Ranger District line, 423-397-8455.