Prescribed Fire


Why prescribed burns?

Prescribed fire is used to manage hazardous fuels, wildlife habitat, improve plant diversity, and meet silvicultural objectives.

When is prescribed fire season?

The prescribed fire "season" typically begins in early April when snow has cleared the wet meadows in the riparian areas of rivers and waterways.  The wet meadows are fire dependent systems that evolved with and are maintained by the periodic disturbance of fire.  The Chippewa NF works with several local partners to implement prescribed burning in several locations across the Forest. 

In the spring of 2019 wet meadow burning is planned along the Boy River (2593 acres) and Leech River (1255 acres).

The large wet meadow burn units include several different ownerships:  National Forest, MN DNR, Leech Lake Tribal, County, and private lands.  Due to the size and inaccessibility of the burn units, a combination of aerial ignition and hand ignition is used.  The fuel that carries these controlled burns is primarily wetland grasses and sedges.

As spring progresses and the landscape loses snow and vegetation dries out, prescribed burning will move into upland areas.  The Forest maintains a number of permanent openings using a combination of prescribed fire, mowing, and brushing.  Permanent openings can be old homestead fields or non-forested openings maintained primarily for wildlife habitat, pollinator habitat, and recreation opportunities.  Openings range in size from 1 acre to 30 acres.  The fuel that carries these controlled burns is primarily upland grasses.

By early May, the forest litter (leaves, needles, sticks) is typically dry enough to support burning under forested stands.  Under-burning projects occur across the Forest in pine and mixed hardwood stands.  Burn units range in size from 10 acres to 500 acres.  Under-burning can be implemented for a variety of reasons: removal of hazardous fuels, increasing understory plant diversity, removal of logging debris, and seedbed preparation.  Damage to over-story trees is typically limited to less than 10% and rarely exceeds 2-3%.  Trees damaged or killed by fire are an important part of a forested ecosystem, providing the structural diversity for insects and wildlife.  Under-burns are planned at 7 locations totaling about 1400 acres.  The fuel that carries these controlled burns is primarily leaf litter and needle litter.

What happens to the wildlife in controlled burn area?

Wildlife evolved with wildfire on the landscape.  Most wildlife simply move out of the area or seek refuge underground when a controlled burn is occurring.  Nesting birds may lose a clutch of eggs but typically re-nest.  The disturbance and effects of fire are an important part of maintaining a fire dependent habitat.

What if the prescribed fire gets out of control?

There are risks associated with conducting prescribed burns.  While extremely rare, escapes do occur and can cause damage.  To minimize this possibility, fire managers utilize a variety of tools and planning to identify locations, fuels conditions, weather conditions, and organizations to safely implement a controlled burn.  Contingency planning for the worst case scenario is a formal part of the process.  The effective utilization of personnel, equipment, and aircraft minimizes the potential for an adverse event to occur.

Learn more about fire:

Perscribed Fire News Release:

West Winnie Prescribed Fire Scheduled - May 17

Kenogama RX Prescribed Fire Scheduled - May 15

Schedule of Prescribed Fires:

April 19: Prescribed fire scheduled south of the town Boy River, along the Boy River. The fire will include approximately 2,600 acres near County Road 8 and the Boy River, located 24 miles east of Walker, Minn.