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Fenton Fire 2017

Fenton Fire 2017

A Managed Wildfire Fire at Land Between the Lakes 

Update | March 8, 2017

Q: Where is the Fenton Fire?

Lightning scar on tree
Lightning scar on tree where the Fenton wildfire started. Photo by Cody Gavin, March 6, 2017

A: The Fenton Fire, caused by a lightning strike, is on Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area south of US68/KY60 near the Fenton Campground and along the Central Hardwoods Scenic Trail.

Q: Is the Fenton Fire still active?

A: Yes. The rain event did not extinguish the fire completely. There are areas still smoldering. Even with the rain over the last few days, the ground is drying very quickly. This time of year, trees uptake of water increases. Therefore, the ground is drying much faster than anticipated.

Fires often burn a mosaic in the forest, leaving some areas unburned. This increases the habitat diversity in an area. A low intensity fire will not burn down to soil level, reducing the chances for erosion.

The total acres burned within the managed fire area is approximately 121 acres.

Q: Could the fire have been stopped when it was smaller?

A: Yes, if a full suppression response had been selected. However, due to the location and natural cause of this fire, we decided to manage the fire for maximum resource benefit.

Q: Did you evaluate how the fire would affect infrastructure, recreation, or cultural resources?

A: Potential effects to vegetation, recreation, facilities and cultural resources were reviewed. Transportation routes were also considered in relation to smoke direction and potential impacts on travel routes.

We identified the locations of infrastructure and culturally sensitive areas. These areas were protected by creating fire breaks without disturbing soil layers using leaf blowers.

During the fire, the Central Hardwoods Scenic Trail was temporarily closed between Fenton and English Hill for public safety. That area will remain closed until fire personnel can determine the trail is safe for public use. This includes eliminating hazard trees which could affect public safety.

Slow moving, low-intensity Fenton Fire
Slow, low-intensity fire burning through leaves and underbrush in the Fenton Fire. Photo by Mike Nova

Q: What are the benefits of fire in this area?

A: Human caused fire suppression over the last eighty years has interrupted the natural fire occurrence and has contributed to the decline of native species. Fires are a natural part of a healthy forest ecosystem and maintain native species such as oaks, hickories, shortleaf pines, grasses, forbs, and wildflowers. This creates a healthy forest that provides habitat diversity, forage, and cover benefiting numerous animal and plant species.

Hardwood species such as oaks and hickories, are fire adapted. This means fire gives them an advantage over non-fire adapted tree species and non-native invasive species which fill in canopy gaps in the absence of fire.

Q: What happens to animals in the burn area?

A: At this time, there are no actively nesting species in the area of the Fenton Fire. Low-intensity burns remove the top layer of leaf litter which exposes nuts for animals to eat, nutrient recycling, and encourages growth of saplings. This increases food for species such as turkeys and deer.

There is an initial decrease in the number of insects after a burn, but within a short amount of time there is a net increase in the number of insects which could benefit species such as bats and birds.

See photos of the Fenton Fire at

March 3, 2017


  • Lightning strike started a wildfire along the Central Hardwoods Scenic Trail near Fenton Campground; Visible from US68/KY80.
  • Central Hardwoods Scenic Trail is closed from Fenton to English Hill.
  • Forest Service staff responded to size up the wildfire. Due to natural ignition, location, and favorable weather conditions, the Forest Service will allow the fire to burn naturally. Personnel will monitor changing conditions daily to ensure firefighter and public safety.
  • Specialists will be evaluating daily any sensitive areas which may be at risk in the area of the fire. Once identified, if any, fire personnel will take action to mitigate risks to those identified areas.
  • Forest Service fire personnel will manage the fire until such time conditions change or natural resource objectives are no longer being met. This helps with reducing costs, risks, and less personnel necessary, increasing firefighter safety.

    Fenton Fire
    U.S. Forest Service personnel are managing a wildfire ignited by a lightning strike. Staff photo
  • Fire intensity is low due to recent rainfall.
  • Currently, a favorable wind is blowing smoke away from US68/KY80.
  • Fenton Fire is currently 2-2 1/2 acres and expected to grow east and west along the ridgetop paralleling US68/KY80.
  • Additional personnel from the Shawnee and Daniel Boone National Forests and the regional office will be assisting.
  • Land Between the Lakes fire staff have been in contact with our neighboring communities.

What is a natural ignition fire?

  • A wildfire started by lightning strike is considered a natural ignition fire.
  • Fire management can be a key component of meeting Land Between the Lakes’ Land and Resource Management Plan goals
  • Fire staff uses the best available science and technology to manage fire, such as computer weather and fire behavior models and smoke monitors
  • At any time a managed wildfire does not meet natural resource objectives, fire personnel will use the full range of fire management tools to minimize impacts, including extinguishing the fire.
  • Fire is an integral part of the fire adapted ecosystem at Land Between the Lakes and is a management tool used to encourage a diversity of habitat for wildlife
  • Managing this fire will reduce heavy fuel loads and the risk of hot fast moving fires in the future when drier, less favorable conditions are present.
  • Data collected at Land Between the Lakes and across the southeast shows fire, as a disturbance on the landscape, supports increased habitat diversity with diversity being a measure of forest health.

Why is this fire different?

Historically, when a fire started in a national forest, the goal was to put it out as soon as possible. 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 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.

Since the early 1970s, the policy is to allow fires to burn when and where it’s considered appropriate. Fires that do not threaten “values” such as homes and other structures, archeological sites, or watersheds create opportunities for fire management to benefit the forest.

There are some areas where fires can be managed and this is one of them. Clearing out underbrush removes fuel that could feed future fires in the area. This minimizes the risk for catastrophic wildfires that occur under less favorable, hotter and drier conditions.

Fire personnel will use mostly natural barriers to manage the fire. Favorable weather conditions will continue for the next 3-5 days. Fire personnel will continue to manage the Fenton Fire until such time conditions change or natural resource benefit is no longer being met.

Check out more photos on our Flickr page at Click on the Wildfire Album for more Fenton Fire photos.

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