How Wildfires Will Impact Great Smoky Mountains, Forest

Posted at 8:17 PM, Dec 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-01 21:27:41-05

The images and aftermath of the deadly wildfires in Sevier County are burned into the minds of those who managed to escape the flames with their lives.

However, long after the cabins are rebuilt and businesses are back in business the forest in that area of the Great Smoky Mountains National State Park will continue to re grow. 

"It really just blew the fire out to a proportion that we've never seen in Tennessee before," said Tennessee Division of Forestry's Forest Health Specialist Nathan Hoover. 

Crews with the Division of Forestry have been in Sevier County assessing the damage and reaching out for state and federal help.

"The drought had been setting us up for extreme fire behavior and all the people involved in this field knew there was a chance we're going to have extreme fire behavior this season in Tennessee," said Hoover. 

However, no one imagined the amount of damage the fire in Gatlinburg caused in such a short amount of time. "The fire was moving with the wind, moving up slope in these hollows and tight canyons and blowing up ladder fuels, sometimes reaching the crown," Hoover explained. 

Hoover sees the forest as living thing and said over thousands of years wildfires have played a major role in it's survival.

"Fire is a natural part of that ecosystem, periodically runs through, removes the leaf litter layer. It has the potential to do a complete stand removal and remove the over story. From there the stands are able to regenerate for those upward hardwood stands," Hoover said. 

He said Mother Nature is resilient but it will take years to re grow. "We should be able to see in many places the forest being able to bounce back on it's own and maybe not in our generation, but the next generation will be able to see the forest replaced and be able to see those big, beautiful, mature forests that we see now."