Burning Resources

Prescribed Burning Resources for Wisconsin


Before conducting any prescribed burns in Wisconsin, you must obtain proper DNR burning permits (if necessary where you live) or consult your local municipality and fire department.

Always keep an eye on the changing weather conditions and stay within the specified burn prescription. Contact your local DNR Ranger Station or fire control dispatch office [PDF] for more information.


Men preparing for a controller burnPrescribed burn plans generally involve a written document that addresses all aspects necessary for the safe implementation of prescribed fire. The plan should clearly describe the site conditions and existing vegetation of the burn area and the desired future condition. The plan should also dictate the specific weather conditions and ignition patterns required to achieve the desired fire behavior. Any issues relating to adjacent lands, communities, structures, roads, smoke management and traffic control needs should be addressed. Plans should also make note any smoke-sensitive areas such as schools, airports, hospitals and retirement communities and ensure that the wind direction carries smoke away from these areas. Finally, the plan should identify fire break preparations and the people and equipment needed to safely complete the burn and include a detailed contingency plan (including contact information) for reacting to any emergency. Refer to our WPFC standards for ideas on what to include in your plan.


In addition to key weather elements like temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and direction, other weather and fuel factors should be considered. Be sure to check the drought monitor index for Wisconsin and the current fire danger levels for your area. Avoid burning on days where an air quality advisory is already in place, as smoke is less likely to disperse effectively on those days. You can see the current air quality index for each county and see if there is an advisory in your area.


To meet specific land management objectives, prescribed fire is conducted under weather conditions conducive to creating the desired fire behavior (intensity). These weather conditions are less extreme and more predictable than when most wildfires usually occur, leading to fire behavior that is easier to manage and suppress, should the need arise.

Prescribed burning typically occurs during the early spring (March through May) and late summer/fall (July – November), but can occur beyond these periods if conditions allow and objectives dictate. These are the periods when desirable plant and animal species are less active. Prescribed burning opportunities may change due to wetter springs and earlier spring green-up combined with extreme summer drought and heat, creating smaller windows of opportunity. Developing guidance for prescribed burning in “non-traditional” seasons may expand options for burning and address complexities of climate shifts.


Before any burn is conducted, experienced and trained personnel assess the area to determine the wind direction and speed, relative humidity, “fuel” (plant) moisture and safety considerations necessary to conduct a burn safely. Qualified personnel manage fire behavior through the use of comprehensive planning and specialized fire equipment under the supervision of a Burn Boss. Local police and fire officials are notified when and where burns will take place, so they can respond to people who report that they are seeing smoke from an area.


Smoke control is an important aspect of any prescribed burn plan. Prior to burning, experienced personnel carefully review the burn area and the proximity of houses, roads and other smoke sensitive areas. This information is then incorporated into the plan and the prescribed burn occurs when favorable conditions (e.g. smoke lifting conditions, wind direction, and speed) minimize the amount of smoke reaching these areas.


Here are some more useful links for the day of the burn.