Prescribed fire in the national capital area

Prescribed fire burns several hundred feet behind a historic cannon near Brawner Farm.
Prescribed fire burns near Brawner Farm at Manassas National Battlefield Park

NPS / Bryan Gorsira

What is a prescribed fire?

Just like getting a prescription from a doctor to treat specific symptoms, fire managers prescribe fires to treat specific landscape conditions.

Prescribed fire is a planned fire; it is also sometimes called a “controlled burn” or “prescribed burn."

The National Park Service only prescribes fires when conditions are right.

How does the National Park Service safely manage prescribed fires?

Safety is our top priority. Just like your doctor wouldn't prescribe a medication that isn't safe for you, we won't conduct a prescribed fire unless conditions are just right. Timing depends on weather conditions meeting wind, temperature, and relative humidity requirements. We also stage plenty of wildland firefighters and engines to respond if something unexpected happens.

Why does the National Park Service prescribe fire in the national capital area?

While fire may seem destructive, it actually helps bring new and healthy plants to life! By burning invasive, non-native grasses and other plants and shrubs, we help make room for native grasses to flourish and, in some parks, open up historic viewsheds.

How do prescribed fires help the National Park Service manage natural or cultural resources?

Prescribed fire can be the most effective way to maintain certain natural or historic areas. These include the open areas of some National Park Service managed battlefields in the national capital area. When the National Park Service prescribes fire, we may be working to:

  • enhance wildlife habitat.
  • control exotic or invasive species.
  • restore or improve historic landscapes.
  • reduce wildfire hazard.

Before and after

Un-burned area before prescribed fire Un-burned area before prescribed fire

Left image
Before prescribed fire in November 2019
Credit: NPS / Jonathan Shafer

Right image
After prescribed fire in November 2019
Credit: NPS / Jonathan Shafer

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Last updated: October 20, 2021