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Prescribed Fire | Division of Fish & Wildlife

Prescribed burn at Potato Creek State Park

Prescribed fire is one of the most efficient and cost-effective tools to manage wildlife habitat. Prescribed fire is the application of fire to a specific area during certain, safe weather conditions. They are used to mimic natural disturbances that improve habitat. These burns provide essential habitat for our state’s wildlife. Prescribed fire can also be used to reduce potentially hazardous fuel loads or prepare food plots for wildlife. These burns should only be carried out by individuals who have attended a formal burn workshop to manage forests, grasslands, and wetlands.

Historically, fires were started by natural causes such as lightning or by Native Americans. Many natural communities depend on this disturbance to provide cover and new food sources. Without periodic disturbance, habitats can experience unwanted transitions or even total loss. Experienced fire professionals design burn plans with specific management objectives, weather parameters, contingency plans, and ignition techniques for landowners. Potential impacts to wildlife are also heavily considered when prescribed burns are planned. Individuals who attend prescribed burn workshops hosted by DNR gain more insights into how to properly manage a prescribed burn on their property.

Wildfire vs. Prescribed Fire

There is a distinct difference between wildfire and prescribed fire. Extreme wildfires, common in other parts of the country, are rare in Indiana. Fire in Indiana tends to be less intense than in southern and western states. Prescribed burns are controlled and thoughtfully created, with a specific plan in mind to achieve a targeted goal. Wildfires are unintentional natural or man-made fires that can cause great harm to property and threaten lives.

Prescribed Fire Benefits

Bobwhite Quail

The benefits to using prescribed burns are numerous, with positive influences for humans, wildlife, and ecosystems. For humans, prescribed burns are a cost-effective way to manage plant communities, control natural succession, and reduce the amount of excess fuel that increases the chance of wildfire. Wildlife and ecosystems both benefit because fire:

  • Maintains grassland habitat and different forest types
  • Allows grassland habitat to persist by killing off more aggressive trees and shrubs
  • Increases plant diversity by opening up space for fire-adapted grasses and wildflowers
  • Removes obstacles that hinder wildlife mobility
  • Releases nutrients bound in dead organic material
  • Reduces the spread of plant diseases

For more information please contact your district biologist. Find a district biologist near you.