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The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission
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Prescribed Fire Program

What is a prescribed fire?

Prescribed fire is an essential tool for maintaining native biological diversity and open non-woody habitat. All participants in the prescribed fire are trained and certified through the National Wildfire Coordinating Group which sets fire operation standards and the safe effective use of prescribed fire through training. The prescribed fires are always conducted with safety as the top priority and will be executed under strict requirements as set forth in a Forest Service-approved prescribed burn plan including fuel and weather parameters. Fire staff is trained to monitor the weather, temperature, humidity, moisture levels, cloud cover, and wind leading up to and during a burn to ensure that the fire remains at the planned intensity. If these parameters are not met the prescribed fire will not take place. The prescribed fire will be contained within the identified area using a combination of fire engines, suppression crews, and the creation of fire breaks of non-combustible material such as mineral soils and mowed grass. Smoke will be visible but should lift adequately above surrounding areas when weather parameters are met.

When will the prescribed fire be conducted?

The implementation of the prescribed fire is completely dependent on weather conditions.  Therefore, the precise date and time cannot be determined until weather conditions are certified on the day of implementation.  Montgomery Parks will conduct outreach to the general population a minimum of two weeks before the anticipated implementation. Adjacent property owners are notified at least one month in advance. An alert will be placed on this webpage to alert the public of anticipated timeframes and closures.

Prescribed Fire’s role in meadow management and restoration.

Fire is a natural process and many native plants have evolved to thrive with periodic episodes of natural fire, but fires have not been allowed to reach many habitats for several reasons, which has led to a decline in diversity. Prescribed fire is used to replicate historic ecosystem disturbances that maintain and enhance native biological diversity and in turn make it more resilient. Prescribed fire can be used as an alternative to meadow mowing, as it removes unwanted vegetation, as well as removing the layer of dead plant material, also known as duff, and allows sunlight and rain to reach the soil surface to promote the regeneration or establishment, particularly of native wildflowers. While mowing is useful to keep habitats open, over time diversity will decline if dead plant material is not removed. The prescribed fire will be conducted outside of the growing season.  This means that most animals will be dormant and/ or not breeding thus impacts on wildlife will be negligible and improved habitat should increase wildlife diversity over time. For more information check out the Meadow Management and Restoration Program.

Montgomery Parks Prescribed Fire Program FAQs