LURAY, Va. (WHSV) — UPDATE (Apr. 9):
The Shenandoah National Park has scheduled a 90-acre prescribed burn at Big Meadows for April 10.
Fire managers with Shenandoah National Park plan to burn a 90-acre section of Big Meadows at some point in the next two months, dependent on weather conditions.
According to Sally Hurlbert, a portion of Big Meadows (at milepost 51 in the park) is burned every year for the purpose of maintaining the open vista by preventing encroachment by trees and shrubs.
That portion is the open area across from Byrd Visitor Center, and this year's burn is planned for sometime between April 4 and May 30, 2017.
Prescribed burns in the park are only begun by fire managers under a pre-determined set of conditions, including weather, fuel moisture and resource availability. They're conducted as interagency projects, with local support, under the guidance and direction of trained and experienced National Park Service personnel.
Controlled burns mimic what fires historically did for forests in America, by opening the ground to more sunlight and encouraging oak and pine regeneration. Those species have rapidly declined over the past century due to fire suppression and an aging forest.
They can also help to prevent uncontrollable wildfires by reducing fuels.
In addition, low intensity burns make the land healthier for wildlife, such as bear, deer, turkey, grouse and many migratory songbirds.
This planned burn is anticipated to take one day to complete.
Smoke from the burn may be visible in and around the Big Meadows area. Visitors driving in areas of smoke should take additional care by dropping speeds and ensuring their headlights are on.
All park facilities will remain open during the prescribed burn, but access to Big Meadows will be restricted.
Other prescribed burns have been planned by the U.S. Forest Service in a variety of areas around the Shenandoah Valley and surrounding areas.