Written Prescribed Fire Plan

Photo: Fire boss discussing the plan with the burn crew prior to a prescribed fire (by Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation staff).

A prescribed fire plan details the prescription necessary to safely and effectively accomplish burn goals on a site. A thorough written plan is one of the primary differences between a prescribed fire and a controlled burn. A primary advantage of a written plan is it requires the preparer to thoroughly plan the prescribed fire. A written document is important to communicate the plan to a burn crew, prepare for contingencies, minimize liability, and insure the many aspects of a fire are thoroughly considered such as: goals, site preparations, weather conditions, fire and smoke sensitive considerations within and near the burn, labor and equipment needs, neighbor and civil authority notifications, ignition sequences, and appropriate records. Although initial preparation of a thorough prescribed fire plan requires some effort and time, future burns on the same site usually require only minor modifications to the initial plan.

Items addressed in a prescribed fire plan

  • Preparer’s name
  • Date of latest revision
  • Map of burn site
  • Goals or objectives for the burn
  • Description of burn site including topography, fuel types and fuel loads
  • Description of firebreaks and their preparation
  • Fire boss name
  • Minimum burn crew number and skills
  • Minimum equipment needed to conduct the burn safely and protect the crew
  • Plans to protect fire sensitive areas within burn site
  • Plans to minimize fire and smoke impact to sensitive areas outside burn site
  • Applicable permits
  • Civil authority and neighbor notification plans and records of contact
  • Potential burn dates and times
  • Suitable weather conditions such as temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and direction
  • Suitable soil moisture conditions
  • Suitable atmospheric mixing and transport conditions
  • Written ignition plan
  • Contingency plans for spot fires, escaped fires, equipment breakdowns and other problems
  • Mop-up and post-burn monitoring procedures
  • Records of weather forecast(s) examined prior to the burn
  • Records of actual weather conditions during the burn


Assistance preparing written prescribed fire plans and examples of them are available from several sources:

Written prescribed fire plans do not have to be as detailed as some examples at the above websites, but should address the items mentioned in this article. All prescribed fires should have a written plan. Unfortunately, this has not been the case and a lack of planning is one of the primary reasons that many controlled burns develop into out-of-control burns.