Cumberland Gap National Historical Park plans for prescribed fire

Published 3:28 pm Monday, March 11, 2019

As spring approaches, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park will be “painting with fire” in the Harlan Road Trail area of the park located between KY 988 (Sugar Run Road) and the Pinnacle Road on the Kentucky side of the park.

This “planned ignition” is part of the park’s overall Fire Management Strategy. Prescribed fire has been a tool used by the park for over a decade now, and the “Harlan A” unit is an example of how managed fire actually benefits the park and park neighbors.

“The 232-acre ‘Harlan A’ prescribed fire will actually be the third time that a low intensity fire has been used in this area, and will help reduce the amount of beetle kill pine and winter storm damaged trees that have fallen and become fuel for a much larger fire,” explains Park Ranger Shane Sturgill, who is also a Division Group Supervisor on a Type 1 National Incident Management Team.

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“By burning under carefully controlled conditions, the park actually reduces the risk of a large wildfire that could cross the park boundary and threaten neighboring landowners.”

The park is waiting for the right weather conditions to light the fire as certain parameters are required to account for the size of the fire, how hot it will burn, the direction the smoke will blow, the impact to endangered species, and the effect on the experience of visitors traveling through the park. The planned ignition will take place over the next several months depending on weather conditions.

“We also want to make certain that folks in Middlesboro aren’t alarmed when they see the smoke rising from the ridge in the park,” states Sturgill.

The park anticipates that during the burn, there may be minor delays for traffic traveling on KY 988 through the park and the Pinnacle Road will be temporarily closed. The Pinnacle Road temporary closure will be posted to the park’s Facebook.

For additional information, call 606-246-1082. To learn more about fire in the national parks, go to: