Prescribed Fire Season Set to Begin in DuPage Forest Preserves
Specially trained crews carry out controlled burns in the forest preserves in spring and fall
(Oct. 26, 2022) — Crews from the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County are preparing to conduct prescribed fires at select sites in the preserves over the coming weeks.
“Fire is an important tool in our restoration toolbox,” said director of Natural Resources Erik Neidy. “Prescription burns help us control invasive, exotic plants so desirable native species with deep root systems can thrive.”
Prescribed fires are generally conducted in late fall and early spring, after the season’s vegetation has died in the fall and again after the snow melts but before things green up in the spring. A variety of factors including wind speed and direction, temperature, and humidity determine when crews can safely conduct prescribed fires, so the Forest Preserve District cannot schedule them in advance.
Residents who live near planned controlled burn locations will receive notices in the mail, and crews will post signs and contact local fire departments on the mornings of burns. This information will also be posted on the District’s Facebook page.
Specially trained crews remain on site throughout the process, and prescribed burns are only conducted during daylight hours. If these factors are not present, anyone seeing flames in the forest preserves may be witnessing a wildfire and should call 911.
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. Trees in the Midwest are primarily deciduous, which means their leaves fall to the forest floor annually. As such, fuel for fires is low to the ground.” Neidy explains. “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.”
Prescribed fires 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 a prairie at Churchill Woods Forest Preserve in Glen Ellyn in the mid-1970s.
During the fall 2021– spring 2022 prescribed fire season, District crews conducted 64 controlled burns, covering 1,513 acres in 23 preserves, including over 250 acres at Hawk Hollow Forest Preserve in Bartlett. Of the burned acres, 39% were prairie, 15% wetland, and 46% woodland.
Those interested in learning more about prescription burns are encouraged to watch informational videos
on the District’s website featuring the prescription burn crews in action.
The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County has been connecting people to nature for more than 100 years. More than 6.2 million people visit its 60 forest preserves, 166 miles of trails, six education centers and scores of programs each year. For information, call 630-933-7200 or visit dupageforest.org, where you can also link to the District’s e-newsletter, blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok pages.