Park Authority

CONTACT INFORMATION: Open during regular business hours 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Monday - Friday
703-324-8700 TTY 711
12055 Government Center Pkwy.
Fairfax, Virginia 22035
Jai Cole
Executive Director

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Prescribed Burns

Prescribed Burns

Small fire in a small field during a prescribed burn
What are Prescribed Burns?
A prescribed fire, or burn, is a controlled fire on a specific piece of land. It is designed to accomplish specific resource management goals.
Until recent times, fire was a natural part of life for native woodlands, wetlands and meadows. Many ecosystems depend upon periodic fires to rejuvenate native plants and ensure long-term regeneration.
Why Burn?
Meadows are typically burned to:
  • Keep habitat open rather than let it transform to forest through natural succession
  • Recycle nutrients tied up in old plant material
  • Encourage the growth of native grasses and forbs by enhancing soil nutrition
  • Control and top-kill woody plants
  • Control cool-season grasses and non-native invasive species
  • Blacken the ground so it warms more quickly, favoring native warm-season grasses
  • Reduce the risk of unplanned wildfires
  • Improve wildlife habitat for birds of prey and small mammals
Prescribed burns are conducted regularly at Huntley Meadows, Elklick Preserve, Ellanor C. Lawrence Park, and Poplar Ford Park.
Elklick April 13, 2022 after March 22, 2022 burn
Meadow plants vigorously grow back after a burn.  This photo was taken 3 weeks after a burn at Elklick Preserve in 2022.
Forested habitats reap benefits of prescribed burns. Prescribed burns in forests:
  • Remove old plant material, known as duff, on the forest floor, which allows seeds to reach soil, promoting germination
  • Recycle nutrients tied up in old plant material
  • Encourage general woody plant regeneration in the understory
  • Encourage the growth of native species, such as oak and blueberry, that thrive on periodic fire
  • Do little damage to healthy trees and remove unhealthy ones
The Park Authority has conducted prescribed burns of forests at Old Colchester Park and Preserve, Elklick Preserve, Ellanor C. Lawrence Park and Huntley Meadows Park.
Smoke rises from a field during a prescribed burn

Prescribed fire helps the Park Authority carry out objectives in the agency's Natural Resource Management Plan (NRMP Objective 16.d

The Park Authority has an experienced prescribed fire team, and the program complies with all state and county code for conducting controlled burns. Prescribed fires are planned to minimize smoke in nearby communities and to achieve specific management objectives. Weather conditions, critical to determining when a burn safely can take place, are closely monitored.
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