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Prescribed Fire Program



Natural Areas NEED FIRE


 Historically, lighting sparked wildfires in Palm Beach County's forests periodically,  every 3 - 5 years in pine flatwoods and every 10 years in scrub habitats. Fire became a normal occurrence and life in the forests adapted and became dependent on it for survival. 

 Fire is nature's way of 

Keeping things in check by removing thick underbrush so that sunlight reaches the forest floor to allow for greater biodiversity

 Creating new growth by generating heat which causes many trees and plants to germinate

Recycling nutrients and minerals back into the forest soils

Burn Crew Member Igniting Prescribed Fire

What is a Prescribed Fire?

A prescribed fire also known as a controlled burn is a technique used by land managers to mimic a natural fire cycle by setting small, controlled fires in a timeframe based on habitat type and under specific weather conditions.  Conducting prescribed fires makes habitats healthier, plants and animals have access to foods and foraging areas, nutrients are recycled into the earth, and out-of-control wildfires are prevented.

Burn Boss Giving Prescribed Fire Briefing to Burn Crew

How Does a Fire Get Prescribed?

ERM has a Burn Crew led by a Burn Boss who initiates the "prescription" and prepares the "burn plan". Just like a doctor prescribes medicine to a patient to assist in a health objective, the burn "prescription" is a  carefully planned and controlled operation with specific objectives. Conditions must be perfect before the Burn Boss will prescribe a burn and takes into account temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, and other environmental factors in order to direct smoke away from sensitive areas like major roads, schools, and hospitals.  Therefore, prescribed fires are typically conducted within narrow opportunities requiring precision. All members of the Burn Crew are trained wildland firefighters through the National Wildfire Coordinating Group with some completing advanced training.​

Burn Crew Member Exstinguishing Prescribed Burn  

How Are Prescribed Fires "Controlled"?

In order to ensure fire is implemented in the safest way possible, many steps are taken all year long, making the planning process more time consuming than the actual burn itself. 

  • Keeping access areas open and creating firebreaks to keep fire contained to specific areas

  • Reducing fuel heights before burning to reduce fire intensity

  • Preparing and mobilizing equipment

  • Organizing the burn crew

  • Studying weather conditions, both current and forecast ​

  • Coordinating with state, county, and municipal fire agencies and departments for backup assistance

  • Providing advance notification to owners of surrounding property and smoke-sensitive entities

  • Conducting burns during daylight hours and completing ignition within one day

  • Inspecting areas burned after and evaluating conditions

  • Documenting wildfires and other fire-related incidents

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Diagram of how a prescribed fire is controlled


Burn Crew Igniting Wet Praire Prescribe Burn from a Swamp Buggy 

​Are There Alternatives to Prescribed Fire?

Machines Removing Vegetation to Reduce Fuel Levels for Wildfire Prevention

What Happens During Wildfire Mitigation?

ERM staff oversee an experienced operator while using a tracked mower-like machine to reduce the height and mass of live and dead vegetation (biomass which becomes fuel for fire) within specific areas.  A drastic change to the vegetative landscape occurs however, within weeks new growth begins to sprout.​

Before and After Images of Wildfire Mitigation Mechanical Vegetation Removal​​​