image description

Controlled burn planned for Rocky Gap State Park

November 7th, 2022 by WCBC Radio

Rocky Gap State Park will conduct a 90-acre controlled burn Wednesday on Evitts Mountain in partnership with The Nature Conservancy and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Timing of the burn will be dependent on weather and site conditions, so updates on the status of the burn will be available at and

The location of the burn will provide an opportunity for the public to watch the conservation practice firsthand beginning at noon from a viewing station located inside the Hawks Nest Café concession stand, which has a clear view of Evitts Mountain from the other side of Lake Habeeb. The park will waive entrance fees for the day, and complimentary snacks, refreshments and giveaways will be available for anyone who comes to watch.

This is the first controlled burn to take place at Rocky Gap State Park, and it will be conducted through a partnership between the park, The Nature Conservancy, MD DNR Forest Service, and MD DNR Wildlife and Heritage. The burn is expected to begin at 11 a.m. and smoke may be visible from Interstate 68 and the surrounding area. It should be completed by 3 or 4 p.m., with crews remaining to secure and monitor the burn site afterward.

Controlled burns for forest and wildlife habitat management are always conducted with safety as the top priority. Burn staff are trained practitioners who monitor the weather leading up to and during a burn to ensure the fire remains at the desired intensity and smoke is carried up and away from roads and homes. If the required conditions for temperature, humidity, moisture levels, cloud cover and wind are not met or they unexpectedly change, the burn will be postponed.

Foresters and ecologists recognize that fire is a critical ecological process for many environments, including the typical Appalachian forests of oaks, hickories and pines that cover most of Western Maryland. Since the 1930s, however, a lack of fire has unintentionally harmed forest health.

The controlled burn at Rocky Gap is being conducted to help a variety of fire-adapted native tree and plant species, including table mountain pine, which needs fire to regenerate, pitch pine, oak trees, blueberries, huckleberries, and native wildflowers. Many of these species are also drought tolerant, making them better equipped to thrive in changing weather conditions or a warming climate. A more open forest will also improve habitat for birds, bats and other animals, while also making it harder for destructive pests like pine beetles to travel between trees.

Another significant benefit of controlled burns is the reduction of dry wood and organic matter on the forest floor that build up over time, which then reduces the likelihood and severity of dangerous wildfires.

Part of the controlled burn will also be conducted through the use of an ignition drone, which allows a drone operator to drop incendiary devices on the interior of the burn site. This not only results in a more precise ignition pattern, but also reduces the need for crew members to traverse difficult terrain near the active burn.

Anyone interested in learning more or attending the viewing can find updates on burn scheduling at and Live videos and photos of the burn will also be made available on social media to anyone interested in tuning in virtually.