Prescribed Fire

Fire has always been part of the environment, and as one of the most important natural agents of change, fire plays a vital role in maintaining certain ecosystems.

Fire managers on the Canyon Lakes Ranger District of the Roosevelt National Forest in Colorado conduct prescribed fire operations to reduce hazardous fuels and improve wildlife habitat.

Fire managers carefully monitor conditions, including a favorable weather forecast (temperature, wind, precipitation, etc.), fuel moisture, smoke dispersal and staffing. Weather is monitored throughout the burn and burning is halted if conditions fall outside of the required conditions.

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

Did you know fire can be good for people and the land? After many years of fire exclusion, an ecosystem that needs periodic fire becomes unhealthy. Trees are stressed by overcrowding; fire-dependent species disappear; and flammable fuels build up and become hazardous. The right fire at the right place at the right time:

  • 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 write 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.