Prescribed Burning

Fires 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:

ImageTitleIDDescription
Fire Effects Guide
Fire Effects GuideNFES 2394View
References on the American Indian Use of Fire in Ecosystems
References on the American Indian Use of Fire in EcosystemsView
Wildland Fire in Ecosystems - Effects of Fire on Air
Wildland Fire in Ecosystems – Effects of Fire on AirRMRS-GTR-42- Vol. 5View
Wildland Fire in Ecosystems - Effects of Fire on Fauna
Wildland Fire in Ecosystems – Effects of Fire on FaunaRMRS-GTR-42- Vol. 1View
Wildland Fire in Ecosystems - Effects of Fire on Flora
Wildland Fire in Ecosystems – Effects of Fire on FloraRMRS-GTR-42- Vol. 2View
Wildland Fire in Ecosystems - Effects of Fire on Soil and Water
Wildland Fire in Ecosystems – Effects of Fire on Soil and WaterRMRS-GTR-42- Vol. 4View
Wildland Fire in Ecosystems - Fire and Non-Native Invasive Plants
Wildland Fire in Ecosystems – Fire and Non-Native Invasive PlantsRMRS-GTR-42- Vol. 6View

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 VDOF office or forestry professional.

Read more…


Additional Resources

ImageTitleIDDescriptionContent Typedocument-category_hfilter
A Guide for Prescribed Fire in Southern Forests
A Guide for Prescribed Fire in Southern ForestsViewfire-and-emergency-response
A Guide to Mid-Atlantic Regional Air Quality
A Guide to Mid-Atlantic Regional Air QualityViewfire-and-emergency-response
Application for Exemption to the 4PM Burning Law
Application for Exemption to the 4PM Burning Law4.07Viewfire-and-emergency-response
Commonwealth of Virginia State Air Pollution Control Board 9VAC5 Chapter 130 Regulation for Open Burning
Commonwealth of Virginia State Air Pollution Control Board 9VAC5 Chapter 130 Regulation for Open Burning

Provided emission standards for open burning in Virginia.

Viewfire-and-emergency-response
Developing Wildlife-Friendly Pine Plantations
Developing Wildlife-Friendly Pine PlantationsViewfire-and-emergency-response
Fire Effects Guide
Fire Effects GuideNFES 2394Viewfire-and-emergency-response
Prescribed Burn Management Plan
Prescribed Burn Management Plan4.09Viewfire-and-emergency-response
Prescribed Burning Services Agreement
Prescribed Burning Services Agreement4.10Viewfire-and-emergency-response
References on the American Indian Use of Fire in Ecosystems
References on the American Indian Use of Fire in EcosystemsViewfire-and-emergency-response
Virginia Smoke Management Guidelines
Virginia Smoke Management GuidelinesViewfire-and-emergency-response
Wildfire Smoke - A Guide for Public Health Officials and Factsheets
Wildfire Smoke – A Guide for Public Health Officials and FactsheetsViewfire-and-emergency-response
Wildland Fire in Ecosystems - Effects of Fire on Air
Wildland Fire in Ecosystems – Effects of Fire on AirRMRS-GTR-42- Vol. 5Viewfire-and-emergency-response
Wildland Fire in Ecosystems - Effects of Fire on Fauna
Wildland Fire in Ecosystems – Effects of Fire on FaunaRMRS-GTR-42- Vol. 1Viewfire-and-emergency-response
Wildland Fire in Ecosystems - Effects of Fire on Flora
Wildland Fire in Ecosystems – Effects of Fire on FloraRMRS-GTR-42- Vol. 2Viewfire-and-emergency-response
Wildland Fire in Ecosystems - Effects of Fire on Soil and Water
Wildland Fire in Ecosystems – Effects of Fire on Soil and WaterRMRS-GTR-42- Vol. 4Viewfire-and-emergency-response
Wildland Fire in Ecosystems - Fire and Non-Native Invasive Plants
Wildland Fire in Ecosystems – Fire and Non-Native Invasive PlantsRMRS-GTR-42- Vol. 6Viewfire-and-emergency-response

Contact Us

For more information or questions, e-mail us or use our contact form.