Northern Wilds Magazine
Along the Shore

Superior National Forest to improve forest conditions through prescribed fire

Duluth—If you are out and about the Superior National Forest in the next several weeks and smell smoke, it very likely is a signal that fire crews are working to improve habitat for native wildlife and plants, to prepare sites for planting, or to reduce the threat of wildfire by reducing fuel build-up. This management action is referred to as prescribed fire and it is a very important tool that forest managers use across the country in a variety of landscapes.

Prescribed fires are carefully planned far in advance with involvement from specialists in all of the resource programs on the Forest and are designed to be implemented under specific conditions to meet specific management objectives. Several considerations go into planning a prescribed fire, including vegetation types, presence of sensitive plants or animals, visitor use, moisture in the vegetation, winds, relative humidity, and predicted weather. In our area, spring and fall are usually the seasons when specifications for a particular prescribed fire project may be met. The season for implementation of a particular prescribed fire may be based on considerations such as controlling certain invasive plants when their life history makes them vulnerable to fire or avoiding the nesting period of a sensitive bird species.  Prescribed fires are conducted by trained Forest Service personnel.

In the days and hours leading up to the planned time to ignite a particular prescribed fire, Forest managers closely track and verify that current, as well as predicted conditions, are within specified parameters. Prescribed fire projects may be postponed prior to ignition or following a “test” burn if conditions are determined to be outside of specified parameters.

Every prescribed fire plan includes a strategy to keep the public informed through phone calls, social media, web postings, emails, and news media. Targeted notifications typically begin one to two days ahead. During a prescribed fire, particularly a larger one, periodic updates may be provided to the public.

Forest managers plan to conduct several prescribed fire projects, ranging from one to 1,000 acres in size, across the Superior National Forest. Descriptions and maps of this season’s planned prescribed fires will soon be available at the District Ranger offices and posted on the Superior National Forest website. If you have questions about a specific prescribed fire project, you may contact the local Ranger District office. To learn more about prescribed fire and other aspects of fire management on the Forest, visit: For updates regarding active fires here and across the country, visit the national INCIWEB site:

Reminder: Conditions that are favorable to prescribed fires may also be conducive to wildfires starting and spreading. Please take extra care in burning brush, campfires, and other outdoors fire and follow DNR burning permits or other restrictions.

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