SNP sets fire to 90 acres for a prescribed burn

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — Shenandoah National Park, with the help of four other park services, set 90 acres on fire Thursday at Big Meadows.

Firefighters from the Virginia Department of Forestry, Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park, Colonial National Historical Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park helped with the prescribed burn.

It was for a prescribed burn at the park.

"Fire plays a role in the ecosystems," David Robinson, fire management officer for SNP, said. "Fire has always been a part of our landscape here at Shenandoah National Park."

The crew gathered in the morning to discuss all aspects of the prescribed burn, from the basic steps to contingency plans for safety should anything have gone wrong.

"Our overall goal is to improve the health of the big meadow itself," Robinson said.

Black locust trees were one of the main targets of the burn. Sally Hurlbert, management specialist at SNP, said the trees can spread quickly.

"We want to keep the meadow open for sun loving plants," Hurlbert said. "About 20% of the park's rare plant species are out here in the meadow, and many of them need sun to survive."

Conditions for the prescribed burn were just what the doctor ordered. It was cooler and a bit humid, but a strong breeze balanced the weather and helped the fire spread.