Picture provided by Zickie Allgrove
Prescribed fire is a safe way to apply a natural process, ensure ecosystem health and reduce wildfire risk on public and private lands. Also called prescribed or controlled burning, prescribed fire involves trained agency professionals, contractors and private landowners burning an area under a set of specific fuel and weather conditions called a prescription.
For eons, fires sparked by lightning strikes helped shape Georgia’s woodlands. Many habitats and the plants and animals that depend on them require regular fires. These areas vary from longleaf pine savannas and herbaceous bogs in south Georgia to oak-hickory forests and high-elevation balds in the mountains.
Rare wildlife including pitcherplants, gopher tortoises and red-cockaded woodpeckers need such fire-adapted habitats. Quail, wild turkeys and other game animals also benefit.
Without fire, trees and brush grow too thick, shading out plants on the forest floor and limiting which animals and plants can thrive there. Prescribed fire also consumes downed limbs, dead trees and other flammable fuels, lowering wildfire risks and protecting Georgians from catastrophic fires and smoke.
Many prescribed fires to restore habitats are done in winter and early spring, the dormant season. These burns typically focus on reducing a forest’s fuel load. Areas that have not been burned in a long time require special attention when reintroducing fire.
Growing-season burns are done in late spring and summer. They mimic the lightning-strike fires that happened historically in Georgia. A combination of dormant- and growing-season burns is important in restoring native habitats.
Writing a burn plan is crucial. A plan defines the burn area, identifies objectives, sets weather and fuel parameters
(such as relative humidity and wind direction), and determines details such as safety measures and how to mitigate smoke concerns.
The Georgia Forestry Commission provides guidance on creating a plan.
Collaboration has resulted in more prescribed fire in Georgia. The Interagency Burn Team (IBT) is an agreement between private, state and federal partners that are focused on burning to help rare wildlife. Members work together to conduct burns, address fire issues and coordinate fire and safety training. Each organization is able to burn more acres collectively than on their own.
The IBT has been a model for other states. Through it, DNR works with the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy, The Orianne Society, The Longleaf Alliance, Tall Timbers and the Georgia Forestry Commission.
The Georgia Prescribed Fire Council is a diverse group of private, state and federal partners that works to raise awareness and advocate for the increased use of prescribed fire throughout the state, especially on private lands. The council holds two statewide meetings providing information on fire topics each year.
Like all outdoor burning of natural vegetative materials, prescribed fire is open burning and requires a burn permit from the Georgia Forestry Commission. Contact your county unit for a permit.
Introduction to Prescribed Fire in Southern Ecosystems provides basic details about the planning and use of prescribed fire in southern forests and grasslands.
Fire Weather Dashboard is a powerful tool. Click on a map for a local fire weather forecast to help make sure the forecast is within your burn plan prescription.
Smoke Management Guidebook for Prescribed Burning in the Southern Region covers important techniques for managing smoke.
Burning on your own? Consider the Georgia Prescribed Fire Managers Certification, training and a comprehensive manual that explore the components of a burn plan.
The DNR Wildlife Resources Division’s Private Lands Program and related initiatives help private landowners in Georgia meet wildlife habitat and management objectives, including through the use of prescribed fire.
Georgia Wildlife Resources Division and Georgia Forestry Commission have created the Forest Protection and Habitat Partnership to assist landowners in targeted landscapes in implementing prescribed fire on their properties.