GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WVLT) — The Great Smoky National Park placed a ban on fires in the backcountry starting September 26. The ban was lifted on October 22 after a wave of rain swept through the area.
"Park officials will continue to monitor conditions throughout the fall season and will implement future restrictions as needed. While drought severity ratings have lessened, much of the park is still within the moderate drought (D1) category according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Visitors are reminded that all fires must be confined to designated campfire rings and grills. Users should take precautions to help reduce the risk of wildfires by extinguishing fires by mixing water with embers in fire rings and grills."
In September, park officials said they put the ban in place because "The park is experiencing abnormally dry and moderate drought conditions throughout the park,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “With little rain and hot, dry conditions predicted over the next week, it is imperative that we reduce the risk of human-caused wildfires.”
Fires at developed areas must be confined to designated fire rings and grills. All visitors are asked to take precautions to help reduce the risk of wildfires by extinguishing frontcountry fires by mixing water with embers in fire rings and grills. Use of backpacking stoves that utilize pre-packaged compressed gas canisters is still permitted at backcountry campsites.
Rangers continued to warn hikers to be wary of the fact that less water is available at springs in the backcountry due to the dry conditions. They said it could take up to five minutes to fill a quart-sized bottle at some locations.
Backcountry sites 5, 13, 16, 26, Russel Field Shelter and Molies Ridge Shelter are known to be without water.
Backpackers are encouraged to carefully consider their itinerary and carry extra water for those sites that are not located along major water sources.
For more information about regional drought conditions, please visit https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu. For more information about backcountry trip planning, please visit the park website at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/backcountry-camping.htm or call the backcountry office at 865-436-1297.
Copyright 2019 WVLT. All rights reserved.