Valley Forge Lights 150 Acres on Fire

Ryan Heenan
Ryan Heenan
Published on April 11, 2018

Scheduled times for Valley Forge Fire

The National Parks Service is conducting a controlled burn throughout 150 acres of Valley Forge National Park on April 11th & 12th. They will remain lit from about 10:00AM to 4:00pm, depending on weather conditions.

More About Controlled Burns

Controlled burns are not uncommon, but need to be timed well to avoid strong winds that could cause unintended spreading. The National Park Service utilizes this method to manage invasive plants and promote native species. This helps to avoid the need to excessive fertilizer and insecticides throughout the year, which can be harmful to the environment. Other areas like Longwood Gardens, Gettysburg National Park, and several PA State Game Lands have utilized this method to control vegetation. According to the National Park Service, the Valley Forge fire will help control high priority invasive plants found in the fields, like Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius) and Callery pear (Pyrus calleryana).

What About Wildlife and Historical Artifacts?

The level of human activity in the days leading up to the burn cause large mammals and birds to relocate. The fire is not expected to generate enough heat to harm wildlife that will instinctually seek shelter underground during the burn. As this site has great historical significance, the question was also raised whether or not the Valley Forge fire could damage underground (potentially unknown) artifacts. The rapid burning and dissipation of the surface fire is not expected to affect any underground artifacts that may remain. The intention is to create a quickly moving surface fire that does not cause damage to the ground beneath. The Valley Forge fire will help to remove dead vegetation and produce robust grass growth throughout the summer. The last controlled burn in Valley Forge National Park was back in October of 2014. This one will be a larger area scattered across five main fields. The largest field is 80 acres and the smallest is 15.6 acres. These fields are located along Gulph Road and Route 23. These areas can expect some visible smoke, but the effects will be minimal since fields are to be burned one at a time.

Logistics

The team in charge plans to have a minimum of 14 people implementing each burn, but will likely receive a bit of added help from other National Park sites and PA Bureau of Forestry employees. Local fire departments have been alerted to assist as needed should any area spread too rapidly. The general cost of a controlled burn is about $150 per acre. In this case, the cost of the burn should be under $25,000. This is funded through a National Park Service fuels management funding source. The roads surrounding these fields will be used as a containment device. Essentially, each Valley Forge fire will be allowed to burn directly up to the road. In other areas, field edges have been mowed and wetted with water prior to the start of the fire. Curious onlookers can view the burn (or the end results) from five different viewpoints, detailed in the map below.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Source: https://www.nps.gov/vafo/learn/management/upload/VAFO-Prescribed-Fire-2018-Frequently-Asked-Questions-V1.pdf
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