Prescribed Fire

Prescribed Fire

The Flagstaff Fire Department conducts several burns each year. These are either Broadcast Burns (often called "Controlled Burns") or Pile Burns. Broadcast burns are for ecological benefit, typically conducted during spring or fall, and are designed to reduce accumulations of hazardous fuels, recycle nutrients, and control seedling numbers. Pile burns are typically conducted during winter months and are designed to eliminate forest debris (tree limbs, tops, etc) generated during thinning or harvesting operations. Regardless of type, prescribed fire is an important component of our program. Public notification of planned burns occurs primarily through local media outlets, but you may also receive individual notification of burn operations in your neighborhood should you request.

FWPP Rx Neil Chapman

The Fire Dependent Ecosystem 

We live within a landscape that depends on wildfire. Fire plays an important role in the overall management of Ponderosa Pine Forests. The focus of any prescribed fire program is the safety of firefighters and communities. Prescribed fire is a tool used in forest management to achieve a healthy, fire-resistant forest. Fire-resistant forests provide safer conditions for residents and firefighters in the event of an unplanned wildfire. Fire is a natural and necessary part of this ecosystem and wildfires will occur whether we like it or not. Southwestern soils do not receive nutrients from decomposition as other (wetter) areas of the country do. Frequent low-intensity fire returns nitrogen to the soil, supplying it with the nutrients vital to vegetation growth. These kinds of fires bring grasses and plants that promote wildlife habitat, reduce erosion, and protect watersheds. Pine needles and woody debris do not decompose readily in dry Southwestern soils. Low-intensity wildfires and prescribed fires reduce the threat of catastrophic fire by reducing the accumulated dead fuels that would otherwise contribute to extreme fire behavior. Prescribed fires do not prevent wildfires. Fuels treatment projects like prescribed fire change the behavior of an unplanned fire: The less fuel there is to burn, and the more fire resistant an area is, the less severe fire behavior will be.

The Flagstaff Fire Department is assessing all City-owned land and open space containing Fire Dependent Ecosystems. These areas include larger open space parcels on Observatory Mesa and Picture Canyon, as well as smaller open space, and park parcels within the Flagstaff urban core. Through these assessments, Fire Managers are developing strategies to treat these areas with Prescribed Fire, thinning, and pile burning, or thinning and removal.