Natchez Park Wildland Fire

Prescribed fire at Natchez Trace Parkway, Mississippi

Fire Classifications

Fires customarily are classified as either natural or human-caused.

Wildfires

A wildfire is usually started by lightning, lava, or people. Some wildfires ignited naturally may be managed for multiple objectives, which mean they can be monitored, or if management feels it is necessary, contained and extinguished.

Prescribed Fires

A prescribed fire is ignited by humans under a set of conditions that must be met prior to ignition and is carefully monitored. Prescribed fires are used to manage certain types of landscapes. These uses include reducing fuel buildup around campground areas, manipulating vegetative succession to increasing forage for game species such as wild turkey, deer or elk and removal of exotic, or non-native, species. The prescription indicates the acceptable fuel and weather conditions under which a fire should be set so that the blaze can be controlled.

Planning for a Burn

When land managers use prescribed fire as a management technique, they must consider the behavior of fire to assure a desirable outcome. For example, if relative humidity is low, temperature is high, and the wind can be described as gusty, there is a strong possibility that this is a risky time to carry out a prescribed fire. The likelihood of a management-ignited prescribed fire becoming unmanageable under those conditions is very strong. Careful planning, therefore, is required before scheduling a prescribed fire.

Natural resource managers must consider smoke dispersal patterns and management to ensure that transportation, agriculture and human health are not adversely impacted. Morning hours, when dew is still present, are most conducive for prescribed fires. These factors are more readily planned for when the fire is a management-ignited prescribed fire as compared to a fire started by a lightning strike.