Prescribed fire is a tool used by foresters in many areas around the country to promote creating healthy forests and reduce the risk of wildfire damage to watersheds and homes. According to a US Fish and Wildlife Service Web Page, “Use of prescribed fire is widely accepted as a primary tool for land and resource managers. Carefully planned prescribed fire gives refuge managers the flexibility and increased control to burn under the right conditions, more effectively managing fire effects and smoke to benefit natural resources while keeping firefighters and the public safe. These actions help reduce the risk of devastating wildfires that can threaten people, fish, wildlife, and plants.”
Prescribed fire should be completed by trained professionals, who know how to be aware of many factors that could cause a prescribed fire for good results to become a wildfire. Prescribed fires completed safely must take into consideration many factors including, the condition of the vegetation (the type of vegetation, the amount, the amount of dead and deadfall, the amount of moisture in the vegetation, the wind and other weather conditions (from a variety of sources including current real time information) such as relative humidity, terrain and other environmental conditions in complex ecosystems. Pre-planning for prescribed fires also includes a biological survey, consideration for watersheds and other sensitive ecosystems as well as a review of airborne particulate matter that could be emitted often in conjunction with the EPA or other regulatory entities to prevent harm to individuals with asthma or other medical conditions. Preplanning also includes a contingency plan such as how to deal with potential spot fires and how fire resources should be utilized if the fire goes outside of the parameters of the prescribed fire including spotters, hot shot crews, water tenders, and planes the day of the event. Financial resources to fund all of the prefire and fire activities also need to be allocated and planned for well in advance of the event. Notifications about the fire are made to homeowners and property owners in the area and their input responded to and considered. The day of the event all fire service resources are staged and traffic hazard condition are constantly monitored.
If you are interested in learning more about prescribed fire, The Southern Fire Exchange is offering a free webinar: Fire Adapted Cities Prescribed Fire Use in Urban and Community Forest Management on November 10th 2016 from 1-2 pm ET which is approved for 1.0 hour Cat. 1 SAF CFE Credit. Justice Jones, Wildfire Mitigation Division Program Manager, Austin Fire Department, Austin, Texas will be presenting.
Prescribed fires even in controlled settings can become wildfires and should never be used by homeowners to reduce vegetation around their properties without proper permits from all authorities having jurisdiction, environmental entities, state foresters and federal land managing agencies if they are even allowed. Be aware that if you start a fire that becomes a wildfire you may be responsible not only financially for thousands of dollars of suppression costs but you could also face criminal charges. Make sure that your wildfire mitigation efforts are Firewise. The Firewise website lists many easy to implement projects and community activity ideas that can help your community be safer in the event of a wildfire.
Picture of a controlled burn outside of Fallon, Nevada by on the US Fish and Wildlife website by Firefighter John Wood