What is a prescribed fire?
The use of wildland fire to accomplish land and resource management objectives is referred to as prescribed fire, the deliberate application of fire to wildlands to achieve specific resource management objectives. Prescribed fires may be ignited either by resource managers or by natural events such as lightning. Wildland fire may be used to accomplish a number of resource management purposes, from the reduction of fuel hazards to achieving specific responses from fire-dependent plant species, or to control the spread of invasive plant species. Often, multiple fire protection and resource management benefits are achieved concurrently. Hazardous fuels reduction operations include the application of prescribed fire to reduce unwanted fuel loads and the use of prescribed fire as a resource enhancement tool.
Prescribed burning is a well-established practice utilized by public and private land managers. In order to effectively use prescribed fire, land managers must prepare comprehensive burn plans. Each plan specifies desired fire effects; weather conditions that will result in acceptable fire behavior; and the forces needed to ignite, hold, monitor, and extinguish the fire. Generally, the practice of prescribed burning has been used on a relatively small scale and confined to single land ownerships or jurisdictions. Success has been built around qualified and experienced people, their understanding of plant communities and terrain conducive to the use of fire, adequate funding, a supportive public, and a willingness on the part of agency administrators to assume a reasonable amount of risk to achieve desired results.
A prescribed fire is any fire ignited by FWS management actions to meet specific objectives. An approved Fire Management Plan (FMP) which includes the use of prescribed fire is required. A written Prescribed Fire Plan, which meets NEPA requirements is prepared and approved prior to ignition.
The hazardous fuels program reduces the impacts of unwanted wildland fires on communities, natural resources, and cultural resources. Past disruptions of natural fire cycles, as well as other management practices, have resulted in wildfires of increasing intensity and severity. Treatment of hazardous fuel will help reduce the impacts of wildfires on communities and restore health to fire-adapted ecosystems.
Federal lands are increasingly vulnerable to catastrophic fires. Under normal conditions of forest and rangeland health, fires play a vital role in removing excess fuels and maintaining normal plant composition and density. These fires tend to burn at ground level, generating low temperatures and moving relatively slowly. When burning through forested areas, these fires remove underbrush and dead growth while healthy, mature trees survive. Without active management of forests and rangelands, large, expensive, and damaging wildfires will occur more frequently, causing greater damage to people, property, and ecosystems. Intelligent active land management that minimizes the risk of severe fires is needed to protect forest and rangeland ecosystems.
Fire creates plant and animal habitat throughout the United States.
There is no question that many ecosystems would not exist in the absence
of fire. Fire causes change and change has its own value. Change is
biologically necessary to maintain many healthy ecosystems and resource
managers have learned to use fire to cause changes in plant and animal
communities to meet their objectives. Varying fire timing, frequency,
and intensity produces differing resource responses that create the
correct changes for habitat manipulation.