Prescribed Burning

Prescribed burning is one of a number of fuel management tools and techniques that can be used to help reduce the intensity of naturally occurring wildfires while returning an integral process to the ecosystem.

The Importance of Fire

Fire is a natural, normal process in many ecosystems and is necessary to maintain a healthy forest and the diversity of plant and animal life. Many plants and animals have not only adapted to fire but actually depend on it like the lodgepole pine which needs fire to help disperse its seeds. Naturally occurring fires also help to keep insects and disease under control by killing the pathogens infecting a stand. This is critical given that in recent years more than five times as much timber in B.C. has been lost to insects and disease than has been consumed by wildfire.

However, a history of aggressive and highly effective wildfire suppression in the Province has resulted in a significant build-up of forest fuels; greater tree encroachment on grasslands; and, ‘in-filling’ of once open, dry forests of the southern Interior and other areas. This has both increased the risk of devastating wildfires and negatively impacted biodiversity and forest health.

Prescribed Fire

Prescribed fire is the planned and controlled application of fire to a specific land area and is one of the most ecologically appropriate and relatively efficient means for achieving planned public safety and resource management objectives, for example to enhance a habitat, prepare an area for tree planting or, for disease eradication.

VIDEO: Prescribed burning in action



Prescribed fire can also contribute to achieving air quality and climate action targets by preventing large, intense wildfires and replacing them with more frequent, well-timed, well-planned low-intensity fires.

These fires can take many months to plan and are managed in such a way as to minimize the chance of escape and emission of smoke while maximizing the benefits to the site. 

Key objectives for the use of prescribed fire in British Columbia include:

  1. Creating and maintaining strategic fuel breaks both in the wildland-urban interface and the landscape,
  2. Reducing  understory fuels, restoring  fire maintained ecosystems,
  3. Improving  wildlife habitat and domestic range, achieving reforestation objectives,
  4. Wildfire Act and Wildfire Regulation these are defined as resource management open fires.  

Follow the link for more information on planning a burn

Managed Wildfire

Managed wildfire is a type of prescribed burning. When a fire does not threaten people, property or other values, and could be of benefit to the natural ecosystem, managing it makes more sense than suppressing it. 

The BC Wildfire Service supports planning for circumstances and situations where managed, low-risk wildfires are allowed to burn for the benefit of the ecosystem and under the close observation of wildfire management personnel. Planning for managed wildfire is a partnership between the BC Wildfire Service, Ministry of Environment and other land managers, and the general public who play a role in recognising of the importance of fire in BC's ecosystems.

When planning for managed wildfires, experts identify areas which are free of values at risk such as infrastructure, timber, or ecologically sensitive areas and which would benefit ecologically from fire. For example, in large parks and protected areas where the objective is to mimic natural disturbance patterns. The assessment and planning process for managed wildfires also includes fire growth projections and other modeling and helps to ensure that burning is facilitated under appropriate fire weather indices and conditions.

Read the full B.C. Wildland Fire Management Strategy (PDF, 6.4 MB)