Skip to main content

Prescribed fire explained

DNR fire staff conduct a prescribed burn in a forest area

Prescribed fire explained

prescribed burn story map

How it works

Fire experts occasionally plan fires, called prescribed burns. These burns help control invasive species, improve wildlife habitat and help Michigan's forests and grasslands grow. They also remove natural materials that could provide fuels for bigger wildfires.

Burns are usually conducted in spring or fall. Foresters, wildlife biologists and other natural resources professionals evaluate the area and write a plan to help them achieve their goals.

Trained fire staff uses specialized equipment to light and control the fire. Throughout the burn, they monitor safety, site conditions and the weather.  A site may require multiple burns before it reaches desired conditions.

Explore prescribed burning with our interactive map

Some landscapes need fire to thrive

Michigan plants and animals are adapted to co-exist with fire. Some species, like jack pine trees, even need fire to survive – their resinous cones won't open to release seeds unless exposed to heat. Burned areas regrow quickly, providing food and shelter for animals.

Before European settlement in Michigan, fires were ignited by Native Americans or lightning strikes. Today, fires are quickly suppressed for safety reasons, but certain landscapes like pine forests and prairies still benefit from fire. That's where prescribed burns come in.

Prescribed burns also provide an opportunity for firefighter training. DNR fire staff and local fire departments can learn about wildfire and practice tactics and skills.

A Kirtland's warbler with a grey back and yellow belly sits in a green pine tree

Prescribed burn updates

Subscribe to prescribed fire updates:

Get notified of upcoming burns in your area. 

More information

Michigan Prescribed Fire Council

Network of prescribed fire practitioners

Mi Morels Map

Map of burn locations for morel foraging