The importance of Rx burning and its uses for us today

Published 5:13 pm Friday, January 6, 2017

By Ty Torrance

By definition, prescribed fire (Rx fire) is defined as fire applied in a knowledgeable manner to forest fuels on a specific land area under selected weather conditions to accomplish predetermined, well-defined management objectives.

  This practice was observed by early American settlers and adopted to provide better access, improve hunting, and get rid of brush and timber so they could farm. Annual burning became a custom. 

Why do we burn today? 

There are several reasons:  Reduce hazardous fuels, prepare sites for seeding and planting, improve wildlife habitat, manage competing vegetation, control insects and disease, improve forage for grazing, enhance appearance, improve access.

There are several components to a successful Rx burn, but knowledge of weather is the key to successful Rx burning, and is mandatory for proper management of smoke produced by burning.  An understanding of weather and its effects on fire is essential to any Rx burn. The more important elements to consider for executing a good burn are wind, relative humidity, temperature, and rainfall.

Good winter Rx burning conditions often exist for several days after the passage of a cold front that brings ¼ to ¾ inch of rain. During this time, persistent winds, low relative humidity, cool temperatures and sunny days can be anticipated. Weather conditions for summer burning are much less predictable but summer burns can be successful with careful planning.   

The Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC) fire weather forecast is a great source for weather information pertaining to Rx burns. 

In fact, the forestry commission requires you to obtain a burn authorization (burn permit) from your local GFC office. When you call, you will be asked for your name, name of the landowner of the property (if not the same), location of the burn, acres to be burned, the start and end times of the burn and the person/phone number to contact during the burn in case additional information is needed.  If the weather in not suitable for a Rx burn you will not be issued a permit.  The GFC can also help install fire breaks, give on site consultation, and assistance with a burn event.

As always, be careful this burn season and if you don’t feel completely comfortable carrying out a Rx burn by yourself…Don’t!

Local Forestry Department (229-248-2616)

County Extension Office (229-248-3033)

This article revised from the Georgia Forestry Commission Website.