District Begins Fall Prescription Burn Season to Benefit Forest Preserve Habitats
Specially Trained Crews to Carry Out Burns in the Fall
(Oct. 22, 2018) — In coming weeks specially trained crews from the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County will be conducting prescription burns at selected sites in the county’s preserves.
The District has used this deliberately set, controlled, natural resource management tool for more than 35 years to restore native prairies, wetlands and woodlands. Prescription burns generally take place in late fall after the season’s vegetation has died and in early spring before new vegetation emerges.
“A common misconception of prescription burns is that they are destroying our lands,” said Forest Preserve District of DuPage County President Joe Cantore. “But fire has always been Mother Nature’s way to restore what once was. Prescription burns play a vital role in maintaining our natural areas. Wait until next spring for an amazing revitalization of these areas!”
Conducting these burns depends on the daily weather and many other factors, so the District cannot schedule prescription burns in advance. Notifications are mailed out to residents who live near planned burn locations, and on the morning of a burn, the District posts signs and notifies local fire departments. 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 tool box,” 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.”
During the 2017-18 season, District crews conducted 95 prescribed burns, covering 2,477 acres in 26 preserves — the most in more than 20 burn seasons. Of those, 55 percent were woodlands, 39 percent prairie and 6 percent wetlands. November and March were the biggest burn months.
Those interested in learning more about prescription burns can also watch a video
featuring the District’s 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 4 million people visit its 60 forest preserves, 145 miles of trails, five 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 and Instagram pages.