Need for the Council

Prescribed fire is an important land management tool for achieving ecological, agricultural, wildfire protection and other objectives.

In Wisconsin, prescribed fire is used by government agencies, non-profit organizations, for-profit businesses and private landowners. There is no regulatory framework specifically designed to regulate prescribed fire; instead, prescribed burning falls under regulations designed to control wildfire, which do not adequately address prescribed burning issues.

In 2003 there were no means for the different entities and individuals involved in prescribed fire to formally work together. The Wisconsin Prescribed Fire Council was formed to provide a unified voice for the safe and effective use of prescribed fire throughout the state and beyond.

The Early Days

The Council’s origins date to 2003, with informal meetings of prescribed fire practitioners from The Nature Conservancy, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Aldo Leopold Foundation, the Prairie Enthusiasts and other organizations. Originally known as the “Private Lands Prescribed Burn Group”, the group established committees to address prescribed fire issues including agency policy, outreach and education, insurance, cooperation and partnership, and training. Following the example of a similar group in Michigan, the name “Wisconsin Prescribed Fire Council” was adopted.


Over the next several years, the Fire Council carried out the following activities:

  • Compiled a list of prescribed burn practitioners.
  • Surveyed practitioners regarding their education and training needs.
  • Created a door hanger to be used to notify neighbors when a prescribed burn is to occur. Created five habitat-specific education inserts for the door hanger, describing the habitats an why they are burned.
  • Cooperated with an Iowa DNR-funded project to survey prescribed burn practitioners regarding escapes and insurance claims, and to develop an insurance product to cover prescribed burns.
  • Developed a set of training standards for burn crew members that would provide a minimum training requirement for burn crews that cannot practically meet the National Wildfire Coordinating Group requirements.
  • Developed a burn plan standard defining the minimum information to be included in a prescribed burn plan.
  • Created bylaws, which were adopted in July of 2005 and have continuously been updated. See below for the latest iteration.
  • Developed a Statement of Membership Principles, approved in July 2005.
  • Developed this website – www.prescribedfire.org
  • Created an email distribution list to communicate Council business and other information of interest to prescribed fire practitioners.
  • Sponsored a Prescribed Fire roundtable discussion at the North American Prairie Conference in September 2004.
  • Organized a three-day conference, “Prescribed Fire: Igniting Possibilities for Land Management”, in January 2006. The conference featured 35 presentations, 5 plenary sessions, and had over 350 attendees.
  • Formed a committee to advocate for legislation that would formalize regulations for prescribed burns and provide liability protection for prescribed burners who follow best practice standards.
  • Published an information brochure that described the Fire Council.
  • Provided input to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in the development of a state Smoke Management Plan.
  • Provided input to US EPA on proposed changes to smoke management regulations.
  • Provided information to the national Coalition of Fire Councils regarding prescribed fire in Wisconsin.
  • Formally incorporated in September 2008.
  • Adopted new bylaws in January 2009.
  • Organized a three-day conference, “Prescribed Fire: Learning from the Past, Planning for the Future”, in January 2009. The conference featured 37 presentations, seven plenary sessions and had over 320 attendees.

Council Bylaws

The Wisconsin Prescribed Fire Council developed and adopted the official WPFC Bylaws in July of 2005. Last updates occurred in January 2023, adjusting the number of directors from ten to fourteen.