Prescribed fires as a tool

Mary Cernicek - Public Affairs Officer, Forest Service / Bridger-Teton National Forest
Posted 8/21/17

Prescribed fires rarely escape. However, this month’s conditions proved tricky.

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Prescribed fires as a tool


KEMMERER — Prescribed fires rarely escape. However, this month’s conditions proved tricky.

When fire managers ignited the prescribed burn back in early June, fire officials saw ideal conditions for prescribed burns — snow leaving soil moist and minimal foliage in trees.

Warmer temperatures and high wind over the past two weeks rapidly changed that within the interior of the Pole Creek prescribed burn on the Kemmerer Ranger District, and high winds caused the prescribed fire to escape control as the season progressed.

Unfortunately, due to the environmental conditions the fire has been managed as a full suppression fire and an Incident Management Team has been assisting the Forest.

Fire has always been a natural means of sustaining the natural process of the Forest. Increased vegetation has increased the risk of having large severe wildfires. Fire can be used to reverse the trend and to begin the process of removing heavy fuel loads. By doing this the Forest floor begins to grow small plants and restore aspen stands.

By reducing the canopy, the sun is able to shine through and start the process of growing plants that have been dormant due to the absence of sunlight. Wildlife benefit from the new forbs and sprouts, and within days of the fire will be in the area foraging for food.

According to Chris Baird, Kemmerer Game Warden, “prescribed burns are an integral part of habitat management and are a key tool for plans to improve mule deer fawning habitat in the Wyoming Range. Wildfire and prescribed burns provide natural treatment of timber stands that especially benefit deer and elk by stimulating new growth of aspen and increased tall forb production. Burned areas quickly become areas of high use by all ungulate species for these reasons. Although the smoke and control efforts can be frustrating for immediate use and access of these areas in the long run this fire will prove beneficial to deer, elk and moose and the members of the community interested in those species.”

There are many potential goals that can be achieved by using prescribed fire. Here are a few examples:

  • Reduce surface and ladder fuels that contribute to increased risk of uncharacteristically severe wildfire.
  • Reduce risk and help to safely protect local communities from wildfire.
  • Help protect natural resources such as timber and critical habitat.
  • Promote native species and reduce encroachment of invasive species.
  • Enhance landscape resiliency and recovery from a wildfire event.
  • Improve firefighter ability to safely and effectively respond to and suppress wildfire.

 For more information, visit the Forest Website at For additional information, contact the Bridger-Teton National Forest at (307) 739-5500.