Prescription burns generally take place in late fall after the season’s vegetation has died. Conducting these burns depends on the daily weather and other factors, so the District cannot schedule prescription burns in advance.
Residents who live near planned burn locations receive notices in the mail, and crews post signs and contact local fire departments on the morning of a burn. Information is also posted on the District’s Facebook page
Specially trained crews remain on the site throughout the process, which takes place only during daylight hours. If these factors are not present, the public should call 911 because they may be witnessing a wildfire.
“Fire is an important tool in our restoration toolbox,” said District Director of Natural Resources Erik Neidy. “Prescription burns help us control invasive, exotic plants
so desirable native species with deep root systems can thrive.”
Prescription burns are not to be confused with the catastrophic, uncontrolled wildfires that occur in the dense coniferous forests of the West, where an overabundance of flammable materials often enables fires to burn at extremely high temperatures and spread uncontrollably from treetop to treetop.
“Our oak and hickory woodlands in the Midwest do not provide the same type of fuel to cause the wildfires we see in the news,” Neidy said. “Prairies and forests used to burn regularly and were essential to the American landscape before the land was developed with homes and farms. We are bringing fire back to safely re-create what nature once did on its own.”
Prescription burns are considered a very effective natural resource management tool
for restoring native prairies, wetlands and woodlands. The Forest Preserve District’s first deliberately set, controlled burn was conducted at the prairie at Churchill Woods Forest Preserve in Glen Ellyn in the mid-1970s.
During the 2020-21 season, District crews conducted 54 prescribed burns, covering 1,508 acres in 22 preserves, including over 400 acres at Pratt’s Wayne Woods Forest Preserve in Wayne. Of the burned acres, 56% were prairie, 36% wetland and 8% woodland.
Those interested in learning more about prescription burns can watch videos
featuring the District’s prescription burn crews in action.