2018 National Prescribed Fire Use Report

The National Association of State Foresters (NASF) and the Coalition of Prescribed Fire Councils (CPFC) have released the findings of their 2018 National Prescribed Fire Use Survey. Conducted every three years, these surveys help encourage the appropriate use of prescribed fire as a means to improve forest health and public safety.

The 2018 survey found that 80 percent of the acreage treated with prescribed fire in 2017 was burned to meet forestry objectives (with agriculture prescriptions making up the balance). It also found that the number of prescribed fire councils increased by 40 percent between 2011 and 2017 to a total of 35 councils in 31 states.

“In addition to some steps forward, the latest survey uncovered where we might have taken some steps backward in regards to expanding prescribed fire use,” said Lisa Allen, NASF president and Missouri state forester. “For instance, land mangers treated 1.5 million fewer acres with prescribed fire in 2017 than they did eight years ago and only 14 states increased their prescribed fire activity between 2011 and 2017.”

Other survey findings included:

  • While the Southeast led the nation in total acres (7.6 million) burned with “good fire,” the West’s 3.3 million acres represented the only regional increase in prescribed fire use between 2011 and 2017.
  • Nationally, the total acreage burned with prescribed fire in 2017 (11.3 million acres) dropped 12 percent from 12.8 million acres in 2011.
  • For the first time in the history of the survey, some states reported not using prescribed fire at all over the course of 2017.
  • Consistent with previous surveys, the 2018 survey found four states (Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia, and Kansas) burned more than 1 million acres annually.
  • Weather, capacity, and air quality/smoke management (in that order) remained the top three impediments for prescribed fire implementation.

For the first time, the 2018 survey also documented the degree of liability as defined in each state’s prescribed fire statute(s), finding that five states have no prescribed fire laws and only seven states have gross negligence laws (the highest degree of liability protection).

Click below to read the full report.

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