Wednesday, March 08, 2017 - Updated: 8:51 AM
FENTON -- U.S. Forest Service personnel have been working to manage a wildfire near Fenton in Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area.
Janice Wilson, LBL public information officer, said on Thursday a hiker on the Central Hardwoods Scenic Trail had spotted and reported a slow moving wildfire in the area between Fenton and English Hill. Officials believe was a natural ignition event sparked by lightning sometime during last week's thunderstorms, which spawned a tornado near Donaldson Creek Road.
"We've got crews on the ground actively managing this fire," Wilson said. "It's not out of control; it's a very slow, very low fire just creeping around. Ã¢ Â¦ Right now we're going to allow it to do what fire naturally does and let it help clean up the forest. At any time when it's not benefiting the resource anymore, we will cut it off."
According to an LBL news release, that hasn't always been the policy.
"Historically, when a fire started in a national forest, the goal was to put it out as soon as possible," the release states. "For several reasons, including safety, the time for that policy has passed.
"When the U.S. Forest Service was formed in 1905, the policy was to immediately suppress all wildfires," the release adds. "The idea being that extinguishing fires would preserve commercial timber supplies and protect watersheds. Thinking changed in the 1960s when scientific research demonstrated that wildland fires could have a positive effect on forest ecology."
Fire peronnel were expected to allow the burn to continue until it conditions changed. Officials anticipated favorable conditions through about Wednesday.
The fire has closed both the Fenton and English Hill trail heads, a span of about two miles. Wilson said because of the location of the fire, benefit to resources and favorable wind conditions that helped to keep smoke from impairing vision on Highway 68/80, Forestry officials had determined to allow the fire to continue. Officials had already planned for prescribed burns throughout LBL during the week, but those burns were postponed.
"We did have a prescribed burn planned for the target ranges (Friday), but that is on hold because we have resources going to this fire," Wilson said. "We have three locations scheduled for a prescribed burn next week, including the ranges. Ã¢ Â¦ These are highly weather dependent."
Wilson said the Forest Service had tapped staff from the U.S. Forest Service regional office in Atlanta, as well as Daniel Boone National Forest to assist in those burns. Staff will be bringing additional smoke monitors to manage the wildfire and those prescribed burns, she said.
"The important thing is to let people know there's no need to panic," Wilson said. "This is a very natural thing."
For more information about the Fenton wildfire or up-to-date notices, visit landbetweenthelakes.us and select the "Alerts" tab.