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Wildland fires can be catastrophic for forests but also for homeowners and their property.  Fires are often caused by natural factors, but by far, the largest cause of wildfires is man-related.  Learning about wildfire prevention and what you can do to help will reduce the number of fires.  Preventing forest fires is everyone’s responsibility!  The Northeast Forest Fire Protection Commission's Prevention and Education Working Team (PEWT) offers several ways to take part.  See the Prevention section for more information.


Forest Service Uses Prescribed Fire
in VT and NY to Improve Habitat

Green Mountain and Finger Lakes National Forests (GMFL ) employees, in partnership with local fire departments and land management agencies use prescribed fire to treat approximately 200 to 600 acres of the more than 400,000-acre Green Mountain National Forest (GMNF) and 16,000-acre Finger Lakes National Forest each year. The Forest Service uses prescribed fire as a management tool to; reduce heavy accumulations of grass and brush, reduce the potential for large uncontrollable wildfires, restore critical wildlife habitat, regenerate early successional growth and improve overall watershed conditions on the national forests.  


Prescribed fires do not typically impact local residents, although smoke is often visible and able to be smelled by nearby residents. The timing of the prescribed burns depends on weather and vegetation conditions that meet very specifically defined limits – called the “prescription” -- so the ignition dates are subject to some adjustment, though the burn window. The Forest Service announces additional details about specific burn locations near the date of planned ignition. Most prescribed fires are planned in the Spring and Fall months. Prior to each prescribed fire, crews will have already prepared the burn area by constructing control lines on the ground. On the first day of ignition, crews will further secure the burn perimeter by “blacklining,” (a method of applying fire to a strip of vegetation immediately inside the control lines) to create a wide barrier that contains the fire within the designated area. Once the blacklining area is secure firefighters will use ignition devices to light vegetation in the interior of the burn area.


Prescribed fire restores declining wildlife habitat and improves watershed conditions. The areas planned for burning are often overgrown with thick brush and have been identified by the Forest Service as being critical wildlife habitat. Plants in the area used as forage by wildlife have become coarse, dense, and overcrowded. The post-fire landscape supports a more diverse variety of grasses and forbs, which will be more palatable and nutritious for wildlife species. Each burn site is closed to the public, and access is limited throughout the duration of the prescribed fire activities. If it is necessary to temporarily close Forest roads and trails, the Forest Service will notify the public of these closures by posting signs. Such closures will be subject to modification based on the actual date of ignition during the burn window. Firefighter and public safety is always the highest priority for each prescribed fire.


The U.S. Forest Service is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with a mission of sustaining the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. Recreational activities on the country’s national forests contribute $14.5 billion annually to the U.S. economy. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. The Forest Service’s Eastern Region includes twenty states in the Midwest and East, stretching from Maine, to Maryland, to Missouri, to Minnesota. There are 17 national forests and one national tallgrass prairie in the Eastern Region.

Fall and Forest Fire Safety go Hand in Hand

With the onset of cooler weather and autumn colours, fall may be one of the most enjoyable seasons for outdoor activities. However, as cooler temperatures set in, vegetation will die and dry out and become very flammable. Keep in mind, forest fire prevention and mitigation messaging is still applicable, and it is vital that we be wary of forest fires during this time of the year.

Campfire Safety

In most regions, the Forest Fire Season extends well into the fall. Depending on where you are located, local regulations and restrictions may be in place if you wish to have an open fire on forested land.

If you plan to have an open fire, we recommend you follow these simple steps.

  • Check local regulations to ensure you are allowed to burn.
  • Check the Fire Hazard rating for your region.
  • When selecting a site for the fire:
    • ensure the location is protected from winds gusts;
    • select a site that is close to an adequate source of water;
    • clear an area, at least a three metres (10 feet) in diameter, free of all combustible material such as grass, sticks or other vegetation;
    • make sure there is no overhead or hanging vegetation; and
    • if possible, dig a pit for the fire and surround it with rocks to contain your fire.

  • When your fire is burning:
    • keep your fire small and contained within the fire ring;
    • NEVER EVER leave a fire unattended;
    • always keep water and a shovel nearby to extinguish your fire; and
    • pay attention to the weather conditions. Wind gusts can quickly spread embers and ignite nearby vegetation.
  • Finally, MAKE SURE YOUR FIRE IS COMPLETELY OUT BEFORE YOU LEAVE! Soak your fire with plenty of water, stir it with a shovel and soak it again. Make sure it is cool to touch before leaving.

Gasoline Powered Equipment

In wildland and forested areas, it is vital that equipment be properly maintained. All portable, gasoline-powered equipment such as; chainsaws, all-terrain vehicles, lawn mowers and weed trimmers are required to be equipped with functioning spark arresters and muffler systems.

  • Keep your exhaust system and spark arresters in proper working order and free of carbon build up and debris.
  • Many provinces and states require all-terrain vehicles to be equipped with a fire extinguisher. Check local regulations to determine the appropriate size and class.
  • When travelling over dry, grassy terrain, remember the heat from your exhaust system can quickly ignite a wildfire. Avoid parking in tall dry grass.

Be FireSmart or Firewise around your Home, Cottage or Cabin

The threat of forest fires is real for anyone living in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI). The WUI is any developed area where structures and other human developments, intermix with wildland or vegetative fuels. Within this area both natural and constructed fuels exist, and depending on the material used, can quickly advance the spread of wildfire.

The fall is a great time to clear debris in and around your home, cottage or cabin. As a homeowner, it is important to know there are simple things you can do to greatly improve the chances of your home surviving a wildfire. 

To learn more visit:

FireSmart Canada

Firewise USA

With fall approaching, we encourage all residents to keep these important forest fire prevention and mitigation messages in mind.