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Metro Parks Newsroom

Metro Parks conducting prescribed burn today

Tuesday March 29, 2011

Metro Parks staff is currently undergoing a ‘prescribed burn’ on 7.2 acres in the Scott’s Gap Area of Jefferson Memorial Forest. The fire was lit at about 10:30 a.m. today.

The burns, managed by the department’s Natural Areas Division, will occur in two areas: 5.7 acres of former agricultural field that have been replaced with warm season grasses and 1.5 acres of native warm season grasses. The planting of native warm season grasses and wildflowers in 2005 was part of the USDA Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP). This program requires these areas be burned periodically to promote the native warm season grasses and forbs planted as part of the program and to reduce competition from woody and undesirable species. This is the third burn for this particular area under the WHIP program.

Why does Metro Parks use fire?
In 2002, Metro Parks began using prescribed burns as an ecological management technique in Iroquois Park. Through our Natural Areas program, Metro Parks plans to conduct controlled burns on a rotating basis in locations where fire is an appropriate land management technique.

“Fire is an important tool in maintaining healthy habitats for many kinds of plants and animals, some of which are dependent upon periodic fires for survival,” said Bennett Knox, Natural Areas Administrator for Metro Parks. “Prescribed burns promote the establishment of native grasses and wildflowers, while impeding the growth of non-native and exotic species.”

During a burn, fire is controlled using natural and artificial ‘fire breaks’ – roads, streams, trails and mowed lines that contain the fire to a desired area – as well as through a variety of fire suppression methods. Some workers are in charge of setting fires, while other workers are downwind, prepared to extinguish the flames. The activity is coordinated by radio from a moving command post.

Prescribed burns cannot take place unless a precise set of weather conditions are met, ensuring that wind will not carry flames outside of the burn area and that smoke will rise and dissipate quickly.

Natural Areas Division
The Natural Areas Division, created in 2004, focuses on management of the city’s natural resources. It manages several parks that are primarily wooded, including Jefferson Memorial Forest, Beargrass Creek Greenway at Irish Hill, Caperton Swamp and Waverly Park. Additionally, they provide support throughout the Metro Parks system for trail maintenance, care of native plant species and environmental education.

About the Jefferson Memorial Forest
The 6,218 acre Jefferson Memorial Forest, a woodland tribute to those Kentucky veterans who have served our nation during times of war, is Jefferson County’s largest nature preserve and the largest municipal urban forest in the nation. The Forest is the flagship of Metro Parks’ Natural Areas Division, which is entrusted with providing stewardship, nature-based educational programming, and outdoor recreation within nearly 7,000 acres of forest, meadow, and riparian habitats across Louisville Metro. Jefferson Memorial Forest offers a full range of recreational amenities, including weekend education and adventure programs, hiking trails, camping, fishing, horseback riding trails and picnic areas. For more information or to volunteer, go to