University of Tennessee Experts Available to Talk about Gatlinburg Fire
KNOXVILLE—The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has experts who can talk about the fire in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and the surrounding Smoky Mountains:
Henri D. Grissino-Mayer, a professor of geography, is an expert on forest wildfires.
For years, Grissino-Mayer has been giving invited talks throughout Tennessee and the Southeast, on the subject “Will Our Great Smoky Mountains One Day Go Up in Flames?” In the talk, he highlights how Gatlinburg is the epitome of fire hazard because the mountain village is located at what we call the “wildland-urban interface.”
“Why? Because we love mountains, we love mountain homes, we love forests, we love to get out in the outdoors,” he said. “But, in doing so, we then have to PREVENT nature from doing what nature does, and that is burn our forests. Such burns are beneficial and in fact our Southeastern forests require fire for maintenance of ecosystem functions and regeneration of many fire-adapted species. That’s right, we have plant species that actually REQUIRE fire.”
Grissino-Mayer published an article this year about fire as a “once-dominant disturbance in Appalachian forests,” about decades of research on wildfires in the Smokies and Appalachians.
“What happened overnight in Gatlinburg was a safe prediction,” he said. “It was bound to happen. I tell people and especially my students in my Natural Hazards class (Geography 331) that it’s not a matter of ‘if’ fire returns to the forests of the Smokies, but ‘when.'”
Grissino-Mayer can be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone at (office) 865-974-6029 or (cell) 865-548-9924.
For more assistance reaching Grissino-Mayer, contact Amy Blakely of UT Media Relations at [email protected] or at 865-974-5034 or 865-333-8128.