Learn more: The Anatomy of a Prescribed Burn
RX Burn Operation
Prescription burning is a highly technical job requiring knowledge of weather, fire behavior, suppression techniques, and environmental effects of fire. Analysis should be done well in advance of the burning season by scouting stands that may need a fire treatment and by reviewing the tract/stand history. Over plan the number of acres to be burned by 10 to 25 percent so area substitutions can be made if necessary and so additional areas can be burned if favorable weather continues. The number of days suitable burning in particular fuel models and conditions varies widely from year to year. If you have several blocks to burn, set priorities. Specifically designate any planned burns that require exacting weather conditions. Considerations include heavy fuels, small trees, potential smoke problems (Smoke Sensitive Areas), etc. Indicate all blocks to be burned on an administrative map. When the burns are completed, record the dates on the map.
Reasons to Burn: Reduce hazardous fuels - forest fuels accumulate rapidly in pine stands. In 5 to 6 years heavy roughs can build up, posing a serious threat from wildfire to all forest resources. Prescribed fire is the most practical way to reduce dangerous accumulation of combustible fuels under southern pine stands. Wildfires that burn into areas where fuels have been reduced by Rx fire cause less damage and are much easier to control.
Reduce hazardous fuels - forest fuels accumulate rapidly in pine stands. In 5 to 6 years heavy roughs can build up, posing a serious threat from wildfire to all forest resources. Prescribed fire is the most practical way to reduce dangerous accumulation of combustible fuels under southern pine stands. Wildfires that burn into areas where fuels have been reduced by Rx fire cause less damage and are much easier to control.
Prepare sites for seeding and planting - Rx fire is useful when regenerating southern pine by direct seeding, planting, or natural regeneration. On open sites, fire alone can expose adequate mineral soil and control competing vegetation until seedlings become established.
Improve wildlife habitat - Rx fire is highly recommended for wildlife habitat management where loblolly, shortleaf, longleaf, or slash pine is the primary overstory species. Periodic fire tends to favor understory species that require a more open habitat. A mixture of burned and unburned areas tends to maximize "edge effect", which promotes a large and varied wildlife population. Deer, dove, quail, and turkey are some of the game species that benefit from Rx fire.
Manage competing vegetation - low-value, poor quality, shade tolerant hardwoods often occupy or encroach upon land best suited to growing pines. Unwanted species may crowd out or suppress pine seedlings. In most situations, total eradication of understory is neither practical nor desirable. However, with the careful use of Rx fire the understory can be managed to limit competition with desired species while at the same time providing browse for wildlife.
Control insects and disease - brownspot disease is a fungal infection that may seriously weaken and eventually kill longleaf pine seedlings. Once the seedlings become infected, burning is the most practical method of disease control. Any type of burning that kills the diseased needles without killing the terminal bud is satisfactory. Rx fire has been successfully used under very exacting fuel and weather conditions to control cone insects such as the white pine cone beetle, while the pest is overwintering in cones on the ground. Rx burning costs much less than traditional chemical control methods used to control this beetle.
Improve forage for grazing - Rx burning improves grazing in open pine stands on the Coastal Plain. Low intensity burns increase availability, palatability, quality, and quantity of grasses and forbs.
Enhance appearance - Rx burning improves recreation and aesthetic values. Burning maintains open stands, produces vegetative changes, and increases numbers and visibility of flowering annuals and biennials. Rx burning also maintains open spaces such as mountain balds, and creates vistas.
Improve access - Burning underbrush prior to the sale of forest products improves the efficiency of cruising, timber marking, and harvesting. The reduced amount of fuel helps offset the greater risk of wildfire during harvesting. Moreover, the improved visibility and accessibility often increases the stumpage value of the product.