www.sosierrapfc.org Southern Sierra Prescribed Fire Council

 www.norcalrxfirecouncil.org Northern California Prescribed Fire Council

Managing Fire

Fire in the Sierra Nevada is an essential ecological process that can restore, revitalize, and renew the forest. Many different species of plants and animals live with fire aspot firend are adapted and dependent upon the diverse landscape it creates. Current fire science suggests that restoration objectives cannot be achieved without the continued and increased use of fire. Fire practitioners, air quality regulators, and others interested in conservation are partnering to foster discussions and changes needed to effectively restore a Sierra Nevada fire-dependent landscape while providing for public safety.

In the menu block to the left, you'll find links to scientific research papers, federal and state fire policies, and information about prescribed fire. More extensive research literature can also be found in the fire ecology and science section of our website, under the tab Forest Conservation.

Types of Fire: Definitions

Prescribed Fire

Prescribed fire is the knowledgeable and skillful application of a planned ignition specific to environmental conditions (e.g. fuel moisture, temperature, smoke dispersion, topography etc.) to achieve a biophysical resource objective (e.g. enhancing wildlife habitat, meadow enhancement, reduction of surface fuels) or cultural resource objectives.


A wildfire is an unplanned ignition such as a fire caused by lightning, volcanoes, unauthorized and accidental human-caused fires and escaped prescribed fires. Unplanned ignitions that are natural ignitions (lightning and volcanoes) can be managed for resource benefit and/or suppression.

Natural Ignitions

Natural ignitions  are those caused by natural events, such as lightning, and not by any anthropogenic (human caused) actions. Under Title 17 definitions (California regulations for the Air Resources Board), a natural ignition managed for resource benefits is considered to be a prescribed fire, and as such, would subject the burn to the requirements of Title 17. These requirements may include the submittal of a Smoke Management Plan to the local Air District or ARB.

Cultural Fire

Cultural fire is a form of prescribed fire. Cultural fire is the intentional application of fire and smoke to create and sustain ecosystems and plant communities, including especially culturally defined resources (food and materials as well as aesthetic and spiritual resources) within those systems and communities. Like prescribed fires with biophysical resource objectives, cultural burning may include such goals as enhancing wildlife habitat or water resources, but cultural fires may also address aesthetic goals (such as creating a “park-like” landscape) and fulfill spiritual obligations. [Editor note: Fire may also be applied to restore and enhance culturally important plant resources important to Native American traditional practices]. Distinguishing features of cultural fire regimes include specific patterns of fire seasonality, frequency, intensity, severity, site selection, ignitions, controls, and smoke application.

(The definitions above are from the bylaws document for the Southern Sierra Nevada Prescribed Fire Council, in progress).