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Goal: Apply Knowledge Globally Fire in the Southern Appalachians: Understanding impacts, interventions, and future fire events

The team published their findings as a General Technical Report. (Forest Service image)

Introduction

Of all the documented fires in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee, between 1992 to 2017, the Chimney Tops 2 fire accounts for more than half of the total area burned. The Chimney Tops 2 fire was unlike any other in recent decades in the Southern Appalachians. A team of SRS researchers examined wildfire and controlled burns in the Southern Appalachians over this period and explored potential future changes in both.

Summary

From October to December of 2016, a confluence of factors led to an outbreak of wildfires across the Southern Appalachians. A team of SRS researchers examined trends in fire across the Southern Appalachian region, including intervention activities and acres burned. The team also projected future fire regimes.

Researchers analyzed how controlled burning in the region and area burned from wildfire may change in the future. From all of the documented fires in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park between 1992 and 2017, the Chimney Tops 2 fire accounts for more than 50 percent of total acreage burned. In 2016, more than 66 percent of the total residential and commercial structures burned in the U.S. were located in Tennessee, where the Chimney Tops 2 fire dominated.

The research team used statistical models to project wildfire area burned by county for the southern U.S. from 2011 through 2060 under a variety of possible population growth, economic growth, land use change, and climate futures. The models predicted that human-induced wildfires would decrease by 80 percent, while lightning-induced wildfires could increase by 236 percent.

Principal Investigator
Natasha A. James, Research Economist
RWU
4804 - Forest Economics and Policy
Strategic Program Area
Wildland Fire and Fuels
Publication
Fire in the Southern Appalachians: understanding impacts, interventions, and future fire events
CompassLive Article
Insights from the 2016 Southern Appalachian Wildfires
Research Partners
Karen L. Abt - SRS
Gregory E. Frey - SRS
Jeffrey P. Prestemon - SRS
External Partner
Xue Han - Harbin Finance University, Harbin, China