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Heading/Strip Head Fire

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Wildlife managers often promote the use of prescribed fires, a great tool for landscape management. This tool serves a multitude of beneficial purposes for both the land and landowner.

Fire was historically used by Native Americans and our ancestors. Only in recent history have humans made efforts to conceal it. During the last few decades, advocacy and promotion for controlled burns have been on the rise.

Spenser Bradley, an Alabama Extension forestry, wildlife and natural resources regional agent, said fires are a natural part of many of our ecosystems.

“With prescribed fire, we replicate frequent, low intensity fires that our native plants and animals are adapted to,” Bradley said.


Prescribed fires aid in preventing plant succession. According to Bradley, succession is the progression of plant communities over time. If used correctly, prescribed fires can set back succession to earlier stages of vegetation. This is especially helpful in trees, shrubs and beneficial species such as native brambles, forbs and grasses.

Both fawns and adult deer make use of this early successional habitat as a cover. The early succession vegetation is helpful to deer for fawning and provides vast amounts of nutritional browse.

Other benefits of prescribed fire include:

  • prevention of catastrophic fire by reducing fuel loads
  • control of unwanted vegetation
  • creation of open spaces for aesthetic value
  • support of diverse wildlife populations

Factors that Affect Prescribed Fire

Fuels, weather and time of year all affect the success of prescribed burns. Fuel is any living or dead plant material that fire can ignite. Elements, such as wind, temperature and humidity, can hinder a fire from burning or accelerate it rapidly.

Depending on their objective, landowners often set prescribed fires in both the growing and dormant seasons. Burns in the growing season replicate natural fires, and many native plants and animals adapt to these burns. Growing season burns are also better for managing woody encroachment. Generally, there are more days in the dormant season with the right conditions for burning.

“Depending on objectives, landowners can burn whenever they have time, proper conditions and plenty of personnel,” Bradley said.

More Information

Alabama Extension has many resources that provide more information on prescribed fires. For more information, visit www.aces.edu or contact your county Extension office.


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