GATLINBURG (WATE) – The Great Smoky Mountain National Park announced a temporary ban on campfires in the park’s backcountry until further notice.
The park said they made the decision to issue a burn ban because of extremely dry weather conditions and the amount of leaves on the ground. Fires at developed areas must be confined to designated fire rings and grills.
“With the current drought conditions, it is imperative that we reduce the risk of human-caused wildfires during this period of extreme fire danger,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “The park has not banned backcountry campfires since 2007, but these unusually dry conditions warrant the restriction.”
Visitors are asked to also take precautions to help reduce the risk of wildfires. That includes extinguishing frontcountry fires by mixing water with embers in fire rings and grills. Backpacking stoves are still permitted, according to the park.
“Part of the reason we’re seeing an increased fire risk is the ongoing drought that likely won’t break until the end of winter,” said WATE 6 Storm Team Meteorologist Ken Weathers. “We’re coming off the fourth driest October on record.”
Ken Weathers says there is a chance of showers Thurdsay, but it is not drought-busting. He said the next chance of the rain is not until the end of next week.
The park said that backpackers should be aware that the situation affects the availability of water at springs at backcountry campsites and shelters throughout the park. At some locations where there is a running spring, the park said it can take more than five minutes to fill a quart-sized bottle
The following backcountry campsites are currently known to be without water: 5, 6, 16, 26, 113, Mollies Ridge Shelter, Russell Field Shelter, Spence Field Shelter, Silers Bald Shelter, Double Spring Gap Shelter, and Pecks Corner Shelter. Other campsites may be without water as the drought conditions continue.
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, visit the park’s website.