There are numerous private organizations as well as state and federal agencies that may be willing to assist landowners with writing prescribed fire plans. For example, check with the local county Cooperative Extension office, state forestry department, state wildlife or conservation department, the regional Natural Resource Conservation Service office, or a local, state or national conservation group. There are also many well qualified private consultants that can provide custom made prescribed fire plans to fit any situation. Check with your state prescribed fire council for additional guidance (Coalition of Prescribed Fire Councils).
Well, that depends upon your neighbors – just kidding. If your neighbor is genuinely conducting a “prescribed fire”, the answer is, generally, no. The term prescribed fire comes from the process by where a burn is carefully planned to achieve defined objectives. As part of that planning process, safety is a central consideration. Moreover, one of the best ways to ensure safety is to communicate with neighbors – as well as local fire departments – prior to and on the day of burning. If this has not occurred, contacting your neighbor is recommended. Ideally, they would be more than willing to discuss the details of the burn, as well as contingency plans.
Recently burned areas attract grazing animals because of increased forage quality and palatability. Recently burned areas also have fewer external parasites such as flies and ticks which influence habitat use. Grazing animals follow fires; thus, fire can be used to rotate animals across the landscape. However, animals tend to concentrate on these areas until a more recent burned area is available; thus, when a manager wishes to move livestock, fire is a good tool to achieve this.
Although every burn unit is unique and requires a unique burn plan, in many cases, recommended wind speeds for conducting prescribed burns are 4 to 15 mph. However, there are exceptions where wind speeds above and below this range are suitable. Factors to consider include slope, relative humidity, fuel breaks, crew experience, and fuel conditions (e.g., loading, type, arrangement, moisture).
In general, rangelands should not be burned when there is little or no wind as these conditions make fire spread less predictable and increase the risk of fire whirls/tornadoes. Most prescribed burns require sustained winds out of a specific direction to ensure some level of predictability and to disperse smoke. For more information, see Fire Prescriptions for Maintenance and Restoration of Native Plant Communities.
From a fire containment standpoint, temperature is not as critical as compared to relative humidity and wind speed. As rule of thumb, remember that as temperature increases by 20°F, relative humidity decreases by about 50%, and vice versa. However, (high) temperatures should be considered in regards to how it might affect crew stress and safety. Likewise, prescribed fires conducted above 32°F avoid challenges of freezing water tanks and sprayers.
For more information about weather and prescribed burning refer to Fire Prescriptions for Maintenance and Restoration of Native Plant Communities.
There are many methods and options that can be utilized to manage smoke from a prescribed fire.
To minimize smoke problems:
- burn smaller units;
- burn when weather conditions are likely to produce the best dispersion;
- burn when fuel conditions are likely to produce the least amount of smoke;
- utilize suitable ignition techniques for smoke management;
- conduct post-burn mop-up to reduce nuisance smoke;
- reduce the amount of fuels to reduce smoke emissions; and
- reduce the impact of smoke on people.
The National Weather Service fire weather forecasts are a good source of information for smoke dispersion conditions.
For more information see Smoke Management for Prescribed Burns.
It is a recommended practice, regardless of legal requirements, to notify adjacent landowners as well as the local fire department before conducting a prescribed fire. Contact requirements necessary to conduct a prescribed fire vary among states. Check state and local regulations before conducting a prescribed burn. If applicable, check with your state prescribed fire council for additional guidance (Coalition of Prescribed Fire Councils).
The number of people needed to conduct a prescribed fire varies depending upon numerous factors such as size of burn unit, complexity of burn, fuel type(s), fire crew experience, types of firebreaks, equipment availability, and weather conditions. Some prescribed fires can be conducted with as few as two people, while others may require more than 20. Too few people can be as problematic and unsafe as too many people. An experienced fire boss is often the best judge of crew size necessary to conduct a safe burn.
The following list provides an inventory of the basic equipment typically used on most prescribed fires. However, because no two burn units and therefore burn plans are identical, equipment needed for one burn may not necessarily be required for another.
- Drip torch and fuel
- Slip-on pump unit, ATV sprayer, and/or back-pack sprayer
- Fire rake
- Fire shovel
- Chain saw
- 2-way radio
- Mobile phone
- Fire weather kit
See What Clothes Should I Wear to Conduct a Prescribed Fire for more information about personal safety.
See Using Prescribed Fire in Oklahoma for a detailed list of prescribed fire equipment (page 23).