In coming weeks specially trained crews from the DuPage Forest Preserve District will be conducting prescription burns at selected sites in the county’s preserves.
Prescription burns are considered an effective natural resource management tool for restoring native prairies, wetlands and woodlands.
Prescription burns generally take place in the early spring before new vegetation emerges and in late fall after the season’s vegetation has died. The Forest Preserve District’s first purposely set controlled burn was conducted at Churchill Woods Forest Preserve in Glen Ellyn in the mid-1970s.
Conducting prescription burns depends on the daily weather and other factors, so the district cannot schedule them in advance. Residents who live near planned burn locations receive notices in the mail, and on the morning of a burn, crews post signs and contact local fire departments.
Specially trained crews remain on the site throughout the process, which takes place only during daylight hours. If these factors are not present, the public should call 911 because they may be witnessing a wildfire.
“Fire is an important tool in our restoration toolbox,” said Erik Neidy, Forest Preserve District director of natural resources. “Prescription burns help us control invasive exotic plants so desirable native species with deep root systems can thrive.”
Prescription burns are not to be confused with the catastrophic, uncontrolled wildfires that occur in the dense coniferous forests of the West, where an overabundance of flammable materials builds up and often enables fires to burn at extremely high temperatures and spread uncontrollably from treetop to treetop.
“Our oak and hickory woodlands in the Midwest do not provide the same type of fuel to cause the wildfires we see in the news,” Neidy said. “Prairies and forests used to burn regularly and were essential to the American landscape before the land was developed with homes and farms. We are bringing fire back to safely re-create what nature once did on its own.”
Learn more about prescription burns and how and why the Forest Preserve District uses them, and see a burn in progress, weather permitting, by signing up for “Introduction to Prescription Burns,” on April 2 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at St. James Farm. The program is for all ages; 18 and under with an adult. $5 per person. Register online or at 630-933-7248.
Information about the district’s prescription burns is also available by watching the “Why We Burn” and “How We Burn” videos, or visiting the district’s prescription burn webpage.
The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County has been connecting people to nature for more than 100 years. More than 6.2 million people visit its 60 forest preserves, 166 miles of trails, six education centers and scores of programs each year.
For information, call 630-933-7200 or visit dupageforest.org, where you can also link to the district’s e-newsletter, blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok pages.