Prescribed Burning

Prescribed BurningFires play a vital role in keeping certain types of forests, grasslands, and other landscapes healthy. Most forest ecosystems evolved to tolerate semi-regular fires of lower intensity and flourish in their aftermath; however, societal norms, which often viewed all fire as bad, led a push during much of the 20th century to prevent fire at all costs. But without fires, forest health and diversity has suffered. In an effort to reverse this trend, land managers have emphasized the increased use of prescribed fire, for the multiple benefits “good fire” brings to the forest.

In recent years, land managers have embraced prescribed fire – setting intentional, controlled fires in a specific area with a specific goal – as a necessary and useful tool to prevent dangerous wildfires and manage certain landscapes for long-term ecological health.

Benefits of Prescribed Fire

By removing dead and overgrown vegetation, prescribed fires help prevent large, intense wildfires that claim lives, destroy communities, and cost billions of dollars in damage and firefighting costs. Prescribed fires also offer other significant benefits for landscapes, humans, and wildlife:

  • Removing thick underbrush in forests allows the seedlings of fire-tolerant plant communities to grow; some trees even require the heat from fire to release seeds from their cones.
  • As plant communities regrow after a fire, they provide fruit, nuts, grasses, and other food that attracts a wide variety of wildlife. On lands managed for outdoor recreation, more wildlife draws more hunters, bird watchers, and hikers who spend money in nearby communities.
  • Thinner, less dense forests are more accessible, which also increases these outdoor recreation activities that boost local economies.
  • Prescribed fires can be used to remove specific features from a landscape that would take significant time and labor to remove by hand, such as logging debris or invasive species.

Fire Ecology

A variety of publications explore deeper into fire ecology – the effects of fire in ecosystems:

Fire Effects Guide
Fire Effects GuideNFES 2394View

The USDA Forest Service hosts a website – Fire Effects Information System (FEIS) – containing detailed information about fire ecology and fire regimes throughout the country.

Cooperative Efforts

The Virginia Prescribed Fire Council is a unique group in Virginia focused on promoting the use of prescribed fire for ecological benefits. Its membership includes representation from nearly every entity in the Commonwealth with an interest in increasing the use of controlled fire for managing Virginia resources.

Safe Prescribed Burning

Safe and beneficial prescribed burning requires the right conditions, training, planning, and equipment, and is best left to the professionals. If you’re interested in prescribed burning, contact your local DOF office or forestry professional.

Read more…

Additional Resources

ImageTitleIDDescriptionContent TypeViewhf:tax:document-categoryhf:tax:Media
A Guide for Prescribed Fire in Southern Forests
A Guide for Prescribed Fire in Southern ForestsViewfire-and-emergency-responsepublication
A Guide to Mid-Atlantic Regional Air Quality
A Guide to Mid-Atlantic Regional Air QualityViewfire-and-emergency-responsepublication
Application for Exemption to the 4PM Burning Law
Application for Exemption to the 4PM Burning Law4.07Viewfire-and-emergency-responseform
Beyond the Bonfire: A Primer on Prescribed Fire for Virginia's Landowners
Beyond the Bonfire: A Primer on Prescribed Fire for Virginia’s Landowners

Booklet educates landowners about prescribed fire. What are the laws regarding prescribed burning? How is a burn conducted? What tools are necessary to safely conduct a burn?

Developing Wildlife-Friendly Pine Plantations
Developing Wildlife-Friendly Pine PlantationsViewfire-and-emergency-responsepublication
Fire Effects Guide
Fire Effects GuideNFES 2394Viewfire-and-emergency-responsepublication
Prescribed Burn Management Plan
Prescribed Burn Management Plan4.09Viewfire-and-emergency-responseform
Prescribed Burning Services Agreement
Prescribed Burning Services Agreement4.10Viewfire-and-emergency-responseform
Virginia Smoke Management Guidelines
Virginia Smoke Management GuidelinesViewfire-and-emergency-responsepublication
Wildfire Smoke - A Guide for Public Health Officials and Factsheets
Wildfire Smoke – A Guide for Public Health Officials and Factsheets

This document, originally developed by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), is designed to help local public health officials prepare for smoke events, to take measures to protect the public when smoke is present, and communicate with the public about wildfire smoke and health.


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