Fire managers for the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve in West Virginia are preparing for four prescribed fires between February 25 and May 31, weather permitting.
Plans include burning four separate units ranging from five to 45 acre, according to Julena Campbell, public affairs officer for the National Park Service in southern West Virginia.
Fuel and weather conditions must be within certain burn plan parameters and will determine the exact dates of the prescribed burns, Campbell said.
Two areas to be burned are located in the park’s southern district at Carper Field near Grandview and at Sandstone Falls. Another two are located on Backus Mountain in the park’s north district, she said.
Prescribed fires allow fire managers to conduct safe burns under optimal conditions with sufficient resources to manage any risk to life, property and resources.
The fire restore ecological processes and meeting specific resource management goals.
Campbell said this spring’s prescribed fires will reduce hazardous fuels and the threat of future wildland fires and will control encroachment of woody species into open meadows, improving wildlife habitat and promoting oak regeneration.
During the Sandstone fire, smoke will be visible from Interstate 64, and the Sandstone Visitor Center will be temporarily closed for a few hours to ensure public, staff, and firefighter safety.
Up-to-date information on any facility or trail closures and fire activity will be posted on the park’s social media sites.
Campbell said that for each prescribed fire, fire managers work with other resource managers for years planning and writing a specific prescription that includes parameters for smoke impacts, wind speed and direction, relative humidity, fuel moisture for live and dead burnable vegetation.
Plans also delineate the types and numbers of resources needed to safely conduct each burn.
Before burning, a designated set of conditions must exist including ideal air temperature, wind speed and direction, and relative humidity. Weather conditions will be monitored throughout the duration of the burn to ensure the prescribed fire is completed safely.
For more information about the fire management, review the park fire management plan.