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What are
prescribed fires?

Prescribed fires are just one of the strategies used to minimize the devastating impact of wildfires.

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Year-round wildfires are normal in California. Some grow rapidly, threatening communities & destroying landscapes. Prescribed fires reduce these threats.

Redding, CA

Prescribed Fire: Nature’s ally

Prescribed fires are a carefully planned application of fire on pre-selected lands. From protecting California’s biodiversity to improving air quality, prescribed fires have several important purposes.

Benefits of prescribed fires

  • Reducing wildfire risk: These controlled burns reduce the amount of flammable vegetation, making large wildfires less likely.
  • Promoting watershed health: By managing vegetation, prescribed fires help maintain the health of vital water sources.
  • Enhancing forest conditions: These fires clear out dense vegetation, allowing fire-adapted trees to thrive.
  • Supporting wildlife: A diverse habitat is essential for wildlife, and prescribed fires help promote this diversity.
  • Maintaining clean air: By managing vegetation, prescribed fires prevent larger, more polluting wildfires.

Prescribed fires are helping to preserve California’s natural beauty for generations to come.

Why protect California’s forests?

bird's-eye view of the tress in a forest in Graeagle, CA
Graeagle, CA

Stretching from Northern California to San Bernardino, our forests span over 33 million acres with over 4 billion trees. They’re the lungs of our state, providing clean air, water, wildlife habitats, and acting as natural fire barriers.

Yet, California’s forests are suffering. Why? The following factors combined are creating wildfires that burn hotter and faster, damaging our forests and threatening our communities.

  • Overcrowding: 100+ years of preventing fires have led to dense forests that are more prone to wildfires. Climate change: Rising temperatures and altered snowpacks are reshaping our forests.
  • Drought conditions: Drought makes trees weaker and more likely to catch fire.
  • Pest infestations: Native and invasive insects and diseases are harming trees, especially after droughts.

Strategies to improve forest health

Seedlings germinating in a greenhouse
L.A. Moran Reforestation Center, Davis, CA

As wildfires are becoming more intense, CAL FIRE, along with the Wildfire & Forest Resilience Task Force, is actively working to improve forest health through a series of actions that are constantly evolving, informed by the latest research and ongoing monitoring. Active forest management fosters a balanced ecosystem, thereby decreasing the risk of destructive wildfires.

Our forest management activities

  • Prescribed fires: These fires help control vegetation and reduce wildfire risks.
  • Selective thinning: Removing some trees to allow others to grow stronger. This is crucial for ecological diversity.
  • Reforestation: Planting new trees after large wildfires.
  • Weed & pest control: Keeping trees healthy by managing pests.

prescribed fires

Frequently asked questions

Prescribed fires are known by several terms, including Rx fires, controlled burns, hazard reduction burns, vegetation management burns, and planned burns. Each name highlights a different aspect of their purpose and method.

Not at all. Managing prescribed fires is a team effort. We collaborate with federal and state agencies, tribal governments, fire departments, local communities, and landowners. Together, we ensure these fires are conducted safely and effectively, with the utmost care and planning.

Skipping prescribed fires in ecosystems that have adapted to fire can be risky. We use fire carefully, considering various factors like the weather, fuel conditions, and the wellbeing of the public and economy. This thoughtful approach helps us use fire in a way that brings environmental and management benefits, minimizing risks.

Yes, you will. Our fire management team is proactive in communicating about prescribed burns. We use social media, local news releases, and even road signs to keep you informed. This way, you’ll always be aware of any prescribed fires near your community.
For more information, see CA Air Resources Board Smoke Spotter.

There’s a significant difference. Unlike the unpredictable smoke from wildfires, we can manage smoke from prescribed fires. Our plans consider factors like location, fuel, moisture, and weather to control smoke. If conditions aren’t right, we don’t proceed with the prescribed fire, ensuring minimal impact on air quality.

For any further questions about prescribed fires, please contact your local CAL FIRE Units. They are always ready to provide detailed and helpful information. Contact CAL FIRE Units.

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