Prescribed Burns

For centuries, fire has been the natural friend of the Tallgrass Prairies. It ensured a healthy environment for native species, controlled the growth of non-native plants, burned dead plant material and stimulated new growth by increasing the temperature of the soil. Tallgrass prairie and savanna plant species depend on fire to live.

Today, natural fires have been suppressed, and in the Tallgrass Prairie restoration planning process, the activity has been replaced by prescribed burns. This brings new life and strength to the prairies.

Prescribed burns are professionally-managed, intentionally set fires that burn in a pre-determined area and under strictly controlled circumstances for the sole purpose of restoring natural habitat. By clearing away the scrub and brush, sunlight can penetrate down to the soil where the native grassland seeds lie and they will flourish following a fire. Fire also extends the growing season for native plants and shortens the season for invasive species.

The burns prescribed for the Rice Lake Plains are managed by trained professionals from the Ministry of Natural Resources Management Section, a prescribed burn consulting firm and volunteers who have been formally trained to assist with these burns.

The circumference of the target area is cleared to create necessary fire breaks. These may be roads or natural barriers such as rivers or simply pathways cleared of scrub and vegetation. The condition of the area is monitored for moisture content for several weeks in advance of the burn. And on the planned day, the professionals have to decide whether or not the weather conditions are perfect for a safe burn. A large team of trained and well-equipped people work together. Two ignition crews start at a common point on the downwind side, moving along the perimeter lighting the area. Suppression crews follow to ensure that the fire doesn't move out of the targeted area. Throughout the burn, the conditions are monitored for any change in wind speed or relative humidity that would require termination of the burn.

Following the burn, an assessment is made to determine the effectiveness of the burn and to determine whether or not the goals were met.



Prescribed Burn




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