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Oregon / Washington

Why do prescribed burning

Prescribed burn area CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) road near Barnes Valley.
Prescribed burn area road near Barnes Valley.

Fire is a primary natural disturbance process that is essential to ecological systems across the western United States. In the early 1900s, land management agencies sought to suppress all fires. This changed the severity and fire return intervals from the historic fire regime. Without fire, our forests and rangelands became overcrowded; vulnerable to attacks by insects and disease; and invaded by plants, bushes and trees not adapted to fire. Dead vegetation has accumulated greatly, increasing the risk of large catastrophic wildfires in our forests, on our rangelands, and near our communities. The vegetative conditions that have resulted from past fire suppression policies must be reversed to avoid a continuing trend of more large, high intensity fires.

Prescribed fire can be used to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, and increase public and firefighter safety. It also can help us meet a variety of resource management objectives: reducing hazardous fuels (surface or ladder fuels), and restoring habitats and ecosystems. Today, we know that fire is essential to the health of our forests and rangelands. Conditions in many areas are conducive to large wildfires, and so many more people now live in or near forests and rangelands. We need fires to burn in a more controlled way than is usually possible when they are caused by naturally-occurring events such as lightning strikes. To restore fire to its natural role in forests and rangelands, trained experts employ low intensity prescribed fire in the spring and fall, when weather conditions minimize escape and allow for controlled burning.

You can learn more about prescribed burn terminology

Fire fuel management is essential to forest health (PDF)