With all of the coverage on wildfires and suppression tactics lately, you’ve probably been hearing a bit about controlled burns. This fire suppression tactic is an important one–here are the basics on why controlled burns are used and how they work.
What is a Controlled Burn?
A controlled burn, also called a prescribed burn, is exactly what it sounds like: a fire that is set deliberately in order to burn a planned area in a controlled fashion. Wildland firefighting crews strategically plan when and where to do a controlled burn in order to fight large, out-of-control wildfires.
How Controlled Burns Can Fight Fires
Controlled burns can help get forest fires under control simply by removing fuel. Forest fires will not be able to spread quickly if they don’t have adequate fuel, so preemptively burning an area in the path of a wildfire can help slow it down and/or redirect it away from residential areas.
The Steps of a Controlled Burn
Controlled burns must be planned carefully. It is important for fire crews to only do controlled burns at a time when the weather is in their favour and they can reliably maintain control over the blaze. The fire suppression crew must also strategically choose the best place to locate the prescribed burn. In many cases the controlled burn will act as a barrier to prevent a wildfire from moving in the direction of a city or area with structures. A plan is also made for extinguishing the fire in the event that this becomes necessary.
Once the controlled burn has been thoroughly planned and the crew is all in place, the fire is lit. Multiple crew members are present for this process to ensure there are enough hands on deck in the event that something goes wrong and needs to be rectified.
The controlled fire is monitored closely the entire time it is burning to make sure that it stays within the planned bounds.
Prescribed burning is just one of many effective tactics that wildland fire crews use to mitigate the damage of forest fires every year. SPIEDR is proud to do our part by providing wildfire suppression training, equipment rentals, and consultations.