District Begins Spring Prescription Burn Season to Benefit Forest Preserve Habitats
Specially trained crews carry out burns in spring and fall
(March 14, 2019) — In coming weeks specially trained crews from the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County will be conducting prescription burns at select preserves.
Prescription burns are considered a very effective natural resource management tool for restoring native prairies, wetlands and woodlands. Prescription burns generally take place in the early spring before new vegetation emerges and in late fall after the season’s vegetation has died. The Forest Preserve District’s first deliberately set, controlled burn was conducted at Churchill Woods (Prairie) in Glen Ellyn in the mid-1970s.
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 on the morning of a burn, crews post signs and contact 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 toolbox,” said Forest Preserve District Natural Resources Director 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 recreate what nature once did on its own.”
During the 2017-2018 season, District crews conducted 95 burns, covering 2,477 acres in 26 preserves. Of those, 52 percent were woodlands, 37 percent were prairie and 6 percent were wetlands. March (46 burns) and November (32 burns) were the biggest burn months.
Those interested in learning more about prescription burns can 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, 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
and Instagram pages.