Developing and Improving a Prescribed Fire Program…and Culture

Prescribed fire is an important ecological tool; wildfires are a force of nature. Prescribed burn managers must conduct prescribed fires in a safe, responsible, and efficient manner while achieving their desired management objectives. There is a great deal of training available to prescribed burn managers and wildland firefighters. Training, combined with plenty of firsthand experience and the ability to continue to learn, leads to success on the fireline.

The number of days burn managers can place fire on the landscape, often referred to as the "burn window," is limited annually to a few weeks in the spring and fall. Brad will discuss preparation, planning, and managing the burn season to maximize effectiveness.

Every burn program has its own unique set of limitations from staffing, equipment, smoke management concerns, regulatory issues, natural resource impacts, or public safety. These limitations will be identified, evaluated, and discussed so the burn manager can determine if the frequency and intensity of prescribed fire will achieve management objectives.

When jumps, escapes, mishaps, and close calls occur, what can we learn, and what are we willing to share with others? Brad will share "lessons learned" from 25 years experience involving over 500 prescribed fires. Not surprisingly, when closely examining each unplanned event, some "familiar" themes appear. Factors such as: Complacency and overconfidence, site not properly scouted, weather becoming hotter and dryer, and frequent spot fires, have lead to most of the problems Brad has encountered during prescribed fire.

How can we be better prepared for problems on the fireline? What practices and procedure should be in place before a situation arises? Most importantly, can we learn from others mistakes? Come ready to hear Brad's experiences and share your own in this in-depth presentation and informal discussion.

Subject Matter Level: 
Saturday, January 16, 2016 - 2:15pm to 5:15pm
Brad Woodson
McHenry County Conservation District
Brad Woodson graduated from Iowa State University in 1989 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Fisheries and Wildlife Biology. He became a Certified Wildlife Biologist in August, 1999. Brad has worked for the Iowa Cooperative Extension Service at Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge conducting canvasback duck research. He has worked for The Nature Conservancy, restoring prairie and oak savanna communities at Poplar Creek Forest Preserve. He worked for the Lee County Conservation Board in Iowa as a Roadside Management Specialist. Brad has worked for the McHenry County Conservation District since 1991 as a Restoration Ecologist, Natural Resource Supervisor and now as the Natural Resource Manager. His work involves both biological surveys and ecosystem restoration and management. He conducts surveys and monitoring of birds, fish, mammals, and herpetiles. He has also worked in several large wetland restoration projects including dam removal on the North Branch of the Kishwaukee River, Lost Valley Marsh Restoration and the Nippersink Creek Re-meandering Project. He most enjoys seeing the positive effects that restoration has on plant and animal communities. Brad is the past president and current board member of the Illinois Prescribed Fire Council. He has been the McHenry County Conservation District’s Burn Boss since 2001 and has participated in over 500 prescribed burns totaling over 32,000 acres. His burn experience ranges from CRP burns in Iowa, to private consulting burns in subdivision and natural areas to his experience with a full equipped crew at the Conservation District. The District typically conducts approximately 50 burns per year totaling over 3000 acres.