Prescribed burns: How deliberately starting fires can help control them

It’s important to remember that prescribed burns should only be done by trained firefighters

It may seem counterintuitive to deliberately start fires in order to control them, but it’s a tried-and-true defensive strategy for wildland firefighters.

Below are a few reasons why.

Reduces fuel loads

Vegetation, such as dead leaves, fallen branches, and dense undergrowth, serves as fuel for wildfires.

“If we can thin some of those standards and remove some of those fine fuels in the spring, then when summer comes they're less likely to burn with high intensity and threaten communities and homes,” explains Eric Kopetski, a fire behaviour specialist with the BC Wildfire Service.

CANADA'S WILDFIRES: Visit The Weather Network's wildfire hub to keep up with the latest on the active start to wildfire season across Canada

Prescribed burns to create firebreaks

Firebreaks serve as strategically positioned barriers that assist in managing the spread of fires by eliminating or decreasing the presence of combustible materials in the fire's path. Serving as defensive boundaries, firebreaks stop the fire from advancing and reaching at-risk areas like residential areas or critical infrastructure. Through the establishment of these barriers, firefighters enhance their ability to steer the fire's progress, enabling them to concentrate on confining and putting out the flames.

RELATED: Indigenous communities turn to prescribed burns to protect land from wildfires

Controlled burns are good for the ecosystem

Many of Canada’s ecosystems are actually dependent on fires for renewal, and suppressing them can sometimes cause problems.

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"So maybe we've had more open grassland sites that have been replaced with thicker forests...our objective is to restore some ecosystems to the way they were before we suppressed the many fires. And in doing that, we can also reduce the risk of a really high-intensity fire,” Kopetski explains.

It’s important to remember that prescribed burns should always be done by trained firefighters.

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