Smoke and flame rising from the central region of America's newest national park later this spring should not be cause for concern, park officials say.
Fire managers with the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve in southern West Virginia plan to burn approximately 40 acres sometime between April 17 and May 31 in the Grandview area of the park.
Wind speed and direction, humidity, and other factors will be considered to determine the exact date of the burn near the Grandview Visitor Center, according to Eve West Chief of Interpretation for the park.
The prescribed burn area is located east of I-64 in southern West Virginia, approximately five miles from the expressway's exit 129. The burn is expected to take several hours to complete, according to West.
The purpose of this prescribed burn is to prevent the transition of the field into a closed canopy forest, a process that would displace declining grassland bird species, she said.
The park’s preferred management tool is to use prescribed fire to maintain the field while still promoting the establishment of tall grass species favored by grassland nesting birds.
This planned fire has a set of parameters that define the desired weather and fuel conditions under which a prescribed burn can be initiated. Before implementing this burn, the fire manager will evaluate current conditions and will only begin ignition if the prescribed conditions are within those parameters.
The burn is not expected to interfere with traffic flow on Raleigh County Route 9, which is the road leading from I-64 to Grandview.
For more information, please contact New River Gorge National Park and Preserve Fire Management staff at (304) 465-6529.