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What is Prescribed Fire?


Prescribed Fire is the planned application of fire in the right place, at the right time, for the right reason, by professionals. 


Why do agencies use it?


Prescribed fire:

  • Reduces the risk of catastrophic wildfires

  • Improves forest health

  • Creates habitat for wildlife

  • Generates less smoke than wildfire

  • Fewer economic impacts than wildfire


Prescribed fire also:

  • Reduces the vegetation available to be consumed by wildfires

  • Serves as a fuel break for wildfires and creates a safety zone for firefighters

  • Used as a tool to control wildfires


Why now?


Weather conditions influence fire behavior.  The time of year, wind, temperature, humidity, and fuel moisture are all considered before the Washington Department of Natural Resources, in coordination with Dept. of Ecology, approve the burn. 

Smoke impacts to communities are an important consideration.  This time of year, as compared to hotter, drier summer months allows for managers to better predict the amount and distribution of smoke.


Isn’t it too windy?


Fire managers take on-the-ground spot weather reports and utilize NOAA predications each day.  Wind helps disperse smoke and provide “uplift” (i.e., move the smoke above ground level) and is necessary to move the burn.  Fire practitioners are trained to take into account wind speed and direction and manage the burn accordingly.


Why is the USFS allowed to burn and I am not?


Jurisdictions for burning are determined by different governmental entities depending on who owns the land.


Chelan County Unincorporated (Private Lands): 

  • Contact your local fire district for current burning restrictions on private land.  Burn bans are in effect usually until September 30 in typical years.

    • For County restrictions until September 30, click here.  

    • Lake Wenatchee Fire & Rescue:  509.763.3034 or non-emergency email:

    • Chelan County Fire District 3:  509.548.7711


USFS Lands:


  • The USFS creates a burn plan that is technically reviewed and agency approved before a prescribed burn.  The burn boss then must obtain smoke approval from the Washington Department of Natural Resources in coordination with the Department of Ecology to burn on their lands.  In other words,  State agencies monitor and approve allowances for smoke from prescribed burns on Federal lands based on weather conditions.

  • The USFS then regulates the public’s use of fire on USFS lands.  Currently, campfires are allowed in approved campfire rings.

  •  For current restrictions on USFS lands:


Forested Lands:


Health & Safety:

  • Prescribed fire smoke exposure is not known to cause long-term health problems in otherwise healthy people. 

  • Minimize your exposure: 

    • Limit physical exertion

    • Stay indoors

    • Close windows and doors

    • Turn on your air conditioner to circulate air

    • Wear N-95 respirator masks if outdoors

    • Leave the area.

  • If you have breathing or heart problems, see your doctor if your condition worsens.

    • You can pick-up respirator masks from Chelan County Fire District 3 (Leavenworth Fire Hall) 228 Chumstick Highway

  • Learn how to protect yourself and your family from outdoor smoke, with tips from Chelan-Douglas Health District

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