The Nature Conservancy conducts a prescribed burn in Willamette Valley, Oregon. Burns help to promote regeneration of native species in this historically fire adapted ecosystem.
The Nature Conservancy conducts a prescribed burn in Willamette Valley, Oregon. Burns help to promote regeneration of native species in this historically fire adapted ecosystem. The Nature Conservancy conducts a prescribed burn in Willamette Valley, Oregon. Burns help to promote regeneration of native species in this historically fire adapted ecosystem. © Jason Houston

Stories in Oregon

Controlled Burning 101

Why—and how—do we conduct controlled burning for restoration?

Why do we need controlled burns?

Fire has always been a part of Oregon's landscape. Many plants and animals depend on the recyled nutrients and healthy ecosystems that nature wildfires produce. But after more than a century of suppressing wildfires, our dry forests are overgrown with fuel that causes larger, more intense and severe wildfires. 

The science is clear. Controlled—or prescribed—burns combined with ecological thinning are a proven way to restore Oregon's dry forests. By managing the natural process of fire on the landscape, instead of preventing it, we can improve habitats for native plants and animals and reduce the risk of out-of-control wildfires.

How does a controlled burn work?

Controlled burns mimic natural fires. They are strategically designed by a team of certified fire experts and only occur under the safest conditions. Ecological thinning often takes place before a burn to make them safer and more effective.

Careful consideration is given to many factors, including the weather and wind, to ensure that the fire practitioners and nearby communities are safe and protected. 

What's in the Fire Truck? Burn Boss Katie Sauerbrey gives us a tour of the truck.

Where and when do we burn?

Controlled burns are conducted where there is the greatest need for forest restoration and the biggest risk of out-of-control wildfire. They are directed in a way that is safe, controlled and aligned with the values all Oregonians care about, such as clean air. Burning occurs during the spring and fall, when conditions are just right. 

How to Use a Drip Torch The Nature Conservancy Burn Boss, Amanda Rau, walks us through a critical tool of a controlled burn: the drip torch.

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