When Are Forest Fires Not a Disaster? When They Are Prescribed!

Planning Assistance in Action

by Kristen E. Humphrey, MLA, Local Assistance and Training Planner

Some days it seems like the world itself is burning, with reports of wildfires mostly across the western states increasing in frequency and the fires themselves ever larger and more destructive.[1]

A deadly combination of drought, lightning strikes, human activity – both accidental and malicious – have made wildfires in California, Colorado, and Texas almost daily news. Even eastern states, and now parts of Europe and the UK, are experiencing a sharp increase in deadly and damaging fires in the face of unprecedented heat waves.

Many states, including Maryland, have long practiced controlled burning, also called “prescribed fire” or RxFire, not only as an effective means to prevent future fire disasters, but also for a variety of ecological benefits.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has created two informative story maps that detail these benefits and show how prescribed fire has been implemented in the Dans Mountain Wildlife Management Area in Allegany County and, in conjunction with Frederick City, in the Pine Swamp Restoration Area (located within the Frederick City Watershed (FCW)).

These story maps provide an excellent and vivid understanding of prescribed fire as an important land management tool and highlight how it helps to improve the health of Maryland’s forest resources and improve public safety.

Click the links below to learn about “drone hoppers” and “dragon eggs” and what they have to do with prescribed burns, including how many species, such as Table Mountain and Pitch Pines, actually need exposure to fire as an essential part of their life cycle, as well as photo point monitoring as a means for tracking changes in vegetation over time.

For more information about prescribed burns and to access educational materials on numerous other forest resource management methods and topics, please visit the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Forest Service Page.  Additionally, Planning’s Forest Resource Planning webpage provides local jurisdictions with guidelines, recommendations, and technical assistance on policies and standards to protect forests and trees as lands are developed.

[1] Source: https://www.epa.gov/arc-x/california-prepares-increased-wildfire-risk-air-quality-climate-change#:~:text=Wildfires%2C%20a%20longstanding%20and%20frequent,frequency%20due%20to%20climate%20change.

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