Fire Management

Wildland Fire

Wildland fires are a force of nature that can be nearly as impossible to prevent, and as difficult to control, as hurricanes, tornadoes and floods.

Wildland fire can be a friend and a foe. In the right place at the right time, wildland fire can create many environmental benefits, such as reducing grass, brush and trees that can fuel large and severe wildfires and improving wildlife habitat. In the wrong place at the wrong time, wildfires can wreak havoc, threatening lives, homes, communities and natural and cultural resources.

The Forest Service has been managing wildland fire on national forests and grasslands for more than 100 years. But the Forest Service doesn’t – and can’t – do it alone. Instead, the agency works closely with other federal, tribal, state and local partners. 

This is more important than ever because over the last few decades, the wildland fire management environment has profoundly changed. Longer fire seasons; bigger fires and more acres burned on average each year; more extreme fire behavior; and wildfire suppression operations in the wildland urban interface (WUI) have become the norm. 

Here in Florida, one of our most important tools to prevent wildland fires and promote forest restoration is prescribed fire. 

Prescribed Fire

Prescribed fire is a planned fire used to meet management objectives.

  • Reduces hazardous fuels, protecting human communities from extreme fires;

  • Minimizes the spread of pest insects and disease;

  • Removes unwanted species that threaten species native to an ecosystem;

  • Provides forage for game;

  • Improves habitat for threatened and endangered species;

  • Recycles nutrients back to the soil; and

  • Promotes the growth of trees, wildflowers and other plants.

The Forest Service manages prescribed fires and even some wildfires to benefit natural resources and reduce the risk of unwanted wildfires in the future. The agency also uses hand tools and machines to thin overgrown sites in preparation for the eventual return of fire.

More prescribed fires mean fewer extreme wildfires

Specialists develop burn plans for prescribed fires. Burn plans identify – or prescribe – the best conditions under which trees and other plants will burn to get the best results safely. Burn plans consider temperature, humidity, wind, moisture of the vegetation, and conditions for the dispersal of smoke. Prescribed fire specialists compare conditions on the ground to those outlined in burn plans before deciding whether to burn on a given day.