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NWRC Coastal Prairie Research Program

A Prescribed Burn

A prescribed or controlled burn is often used as a management and restoration tool for prairie systems. Conducting a controlled burn takes planning and experience. The picture below shows some of the important elements of a controlled burn.

Details of a prescribed burn

1. Crew members on a handline, lighting a headfire. A headfire burns with the wind.

2. Backing fire: this fire is burning against the wind.

3. Blackline: a firebreak made by the fire burning over an area and consuming the fuel.

4. Spotters: crew members who look for small fires starting in areas where they are not wanted. The fires are started by firebrands (embers blown from the fire site).

5. Natural firebreak. A firebreak is an area where no fuel is available.

6. Human-made or artificial firebreaks. The firebreak at the bottom of the picture is a mowed strip of grass; the road also acts as a firebreak.

This page was adapted from Jennifer Ackerman's article "Carrying the Torch", 1993 Nature Conservancy 43(5):15-23.

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