The latest issue of Dispatches from the Field was recently published on the Great Smoky Mountain National Park website.
The theme for this issue deals with Fire in the Smoky Mountains. In particular, it focusses on bringing fire back to the Smokies with prescribed burns.
One of the articles is concerned with how fire managers prepared for the controlled burn in Little Cataloochee back in April.
Another article explains how tree rings can tell stories about the history of fire in the park.
Tree rings from the oldest trees indicate that fire was common in the park in the early 1700s when small fires occurred every five to seven years or so. However, change is reflected in tree rings when in the early 1930s the park began suppressing fire. The result, in the Smokies and elsewhere, is that forest fires began to burn hotter, faster, and farther than they had before as a result of the thick layers of fuel (tree branches, leaves, dry grasses and other flammable debris) that were allowed to build up on the ground.
Today the National Park Service has adopted a policy of using regular, low-intensity fires to protect the landscape from out-of-control burns and keep forests and grasslands open and healthy.
You can read the issue by clicking here.