Prescribed fire is any fire ignited to meet specific objectives. A written, approved prescribed fire plan must exist, and NEPA requirements (where applicable) must be met, prior to ignition.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has assumed a leadership role in the use of fire to maintain and support healthy ecosystems. The Service has traditionally led DOI agencies in using prescribed fire to reduce dangerously overgrown vegetation, known as "hazardous fuels," keeping lands in good condition while accomplishing the most with the least funding.
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.
Other means of reducing hazardous fuels -- including mechanical removal of brush and timber, chemical treatment of invasive weeds, and other methods -- may be used in combination with prescribed fire or as a substitute where conditions would make the use of fire unsafe or impractical. Where possible, the use of prescribed fire is preferred because it is generally cheaper and yields ecological benefits that cannot be achieved by other means.