Prescribed Burn Program
What is involved in a prescribed burn program?
Many ecosystems are vitally linked to fire. Historically,
fire was a common feature of the Midwest landscape. Prairies, wetlands,
and woodlands burned with some frequency. As this area became more
densely settled, fires were extinguished before they spread -- these actions
disrupted the natural disturbance patterms. With the cessation of
fire, we have allowed many fire-intolerant, non-native species to out-compete
the native, fire-adapted species.
Benefits of burning
Intact prairies, wetlands, and woodlands are species-rich.
With the heavy competition from non-native species, these areas have a
tendency to become thickets of shrubs or weeds, with very little diversity.
Fire controls the invasion of undesirable plants by stimulating those plants
that are adapted to fire to spread, while simultaneously killing off many
of the woody and weed plants that would otherwise thake over those sites.
Fire enriches the soil, and legthens the growing season. Thus, by
reintorducing fire, a natural ecosystem process, we are encouraging diversity
in our plant and animal communities.
Are burns safe?
Prior to conducting our burns, NAP staff assesses
each site and determines areas of the site that could benefit from a controlled
burn. Detailed maps are prepared, showing areas targeted for burns,
including plans for burn breaks, smoke monitoring, public viewing, and
staff deployment. Burn prescriptions are written for each burn planned,
including the ecological benefits of the burn for the specific site, ideal
wind conditions and th corresponding ignition pattern, potential hazards
at the site, the number of people and equipment needed, and emergency phone
numbers. We discuss each plan with city and township fire marshals,
who must give their approval before we begin a burn.
In order to fill the burn prescription, we must wait.
Weather conditions -- temperature, wind direction and strength, humidity,
and ground moisture -- all must be within an acceptable range before we
How quickly will an area recover?
The fire is under control at all times with the help
of a well-equiped and fully-trained staff.
A prescribed burn will produce some air pollutants,
but more significantly, the fire restores the fire-adapted ecosystem which,
in turn, has a greater capacity to filter particulates and carbon dioxide
out of the air. Emissions from burns are significantly less than
those produced by mowing a comparably sized site.
During the burn, most animals find cover by retreating
to burrows, flying away, or moving to surrounding areas. Since only
a section of the park is burned at any one time, animals can readily escape.
Also, our burns are low, spreading across the ground, and do not reach
into the tops of trees, where many animals can find cover.
Where have prescribed burns been used?
Burned areas re-green very quickly. THe blackened
surface warms the soil and plants respond by sprouting and sending up shoots,
often earlier than if the area had not been burned. Fire stimulates
the growth of native species that are adapted to grow quickly under these
conditions. You will be suprised at the changes that take place in
just two or three weeks after a burn.
The following map highlights the parks in which NAP
has conducted prescribed ecological burns over the last two years.
To this date, all burns have taken place in the Spring, but we hope to
soon add a Fall burn season. If you are interested, we also have
maps which show the specific areas that were targeted within the parks
during 1996 and 1997.