What is a prescribed fire?

Prescribed fire (or Rx fire) is a planned burn performed under controlled conditions. Burns meet certain “prescriptions” like reducing dry fuels, improving habitat and improving grazing land. Unlike a wildfire, land managers can choose when to burn based on weather conditions. Choosing when to burn allows land managers to control where the smoke will go. When planning, burn days are chosen that allow smoke to disburse without negatively impacting local communities.

When smoke is not managed, it can become a nuisance to residents and businesses, and it can negatively impact community health. Smoke can contribute to levels of pollution that exceed health protective air quality standards. To minimize smoke impacts and protect public health, land managers and air regulators work together to conduct burning under favorable atmospheric conditions.

What are the benefits of a prescribed fire?

Rx fire reduces the amount of fuel on the landscape. This reduction in fuel can provide benefits to local air quality as well as provide improvements to ecosystem services. While all burning produces smoke, the key difference between Rx fire and wildfire is the ability to choose when to burn.

When a wildfire occurs, weather conditions may cause the smoke to impact local communities and depending on the size and duration of the fire this could produce significant levels of pollution that exceed health protective air quality standards. On the other hand, land managers can choose when to burn for an Rx fire. When land managers choose to burn, they choose days with favorable weather conditions that allow smoke to dissipate with minimal to no impacts to our local communities.

Additional Benefits

Rx fire provides many additional benefits such as increasing the quality of game and wildlife habitat, controlling pest species and disease, and improving grazing land.

What are the methods of a prescribed fire?

There are many methods to implementing a Rx burn which all depend on the condition of the landscape. Land managers assess the ecosystem category of the area they are going to treat and determine whether it is fire-dependent, fire-sensitive, or fire-independent. Once they determine the fire category, they determine the objectives of the burn, ignition methods, weather parameters, and smoke management procedures.

What are the dangers of not having prescribed fires?

Rx fire, when implemented on a landscape scale can reduce catastrophic wildfire. When a Rx burn is applied to the land it reduces fuels that have built up over the years in a controlled manor reducing ladder fuels and other hazards that lead to large fires that have impacted our region.