What is a prescribed burn?

The importance of a controlled burn

Let’s start with a quiz. Fill in the blank: Prescribed burning is…?

a) holding your temper during a heated family dinner argument.
b) swearing only in your head when a lousy umpire calls your kid out at first.
c) using fire to control vegetation for sound environmental purposes.

Okay, a case could be made for “all of the above,” but we were going for “c.”

What is a controlled burn?

A controlled burn, also known as a prescribed burn, managed fire, or Rx fire, is a relatively small, localized, closely monitored fire, deliberately set to achieve certain goals. CAL FIRE / Butte County Fire calls prescribed fire “the planned and controlled application of fire to the land under specified conditions, to reduce vegetation and risk from wildfire.” There are also other environmental reasons for the use of prescribed burns.

Who does controlled burns?

Anyone with a property large enough to require a controlled burn can initiate the process for one, but it requires careful planning and collaboration with CAL FIRE / Butte County Fire, which works with federal and state agencies, tribal governments, fire departments, communities, and landowners on the planning and implementing of prescribed fires. Visit the Butte County Prescribed Fire Association for additional information on performing a prescribed fire on your property.

Why so much planning?

The most important reason for careful planning is to make sure a controlled burn doesn’t defeat its purpose by getting out of control and causing the wildfire it’s intended to prevent. Plus, the logistics, equipment, and skilled personnel required to safely execute a controlled burn need to be assembled. There are also significant liability issues to review.

What if I see smoke?

Ideally, if you see smoke from a controlled burn, you would already have received notice of a burn scheduled for your general area. Of course, it’s always possible to miss a notice. So, if you see smoke you weren’t expecting, stay calm and visit the CAL FIRE/Butte County Fire Twitter and Facebook pages for the most current, up-to-date information. You may also call CAL FIRE Butte County Fire Prevention Office at (530) 538-7888 with any other questions you might have about controlled burns scheduled for your area. We also recommend sharing any information you get with neighbors, in case they missed the notice, too.