Fire Management Plan

by Kevin N. Main and Eric S. Menges, November, 1997

Main, K.N., and E.S. Menges. 1997. Archbold Biological Station, Station Fire Management Plan. Land Management Publ. 97-1, 95 pp.

Photo: Betsie Rothermel

Abstract: Fire management planning at Archbold Biological Station attempts to balance diverse goals and provide temporal and spatial heterogeneity across the landscape. The goals are enhancing biological diversity, enhancing threatened and endangered species, mimicking natural processes, providing a diversity of research and educational opportunities, interacting with other fire management agencies, reducing fire hazards, and conducting safe burns. A mosaic of units of various sizes, burned at various fire-return intervals, should satisfy these goals. The system is built around five fire-return intervals, each of which is a range of years within which individual burn units are planned to re-burn. A key characteristic is the assignment of modal fire-return intervals to vegetation types (e.g. most sandhill will burn every 2-5 years, most rosemary scrub will burn every 20-59 years). Using fire-return intervals, rather than a fixed number of years, increases heterogeneity, provides research opportunities, and creates a plan with flexibility, including the ability to absorb most lightning-ignited fires. Initial burns in fire-suppressed areas are staggered to be burned over a time period corresponding to the modal fire-return interval. Heterogeneity is also provided by assigning units to intervals other than the modal one for the vegetation. We also seek to promote variation in timing of fires, fire patchiness, fire intensity, and size of burns. Recent Station fire management has increased the number of prescribed burns, shifted most burns to the natural ignition season, and used a range of fire sizes (<1 to 73 ha). A variety of fire-return intervals are also assigned to units containing critically-endangered species in order to provide research-based management information. Mechanics of the plan are described, including how burn dates are selected for burn units, how prescribed fires are conducted, pre- and post-fire monitoring, fire mapping, burn unit surveys, and burn day preparations. Policies for dealing with all fires (including lighting-ignited and accidental fires) provide information about acceptable prescription parameters, necessary safety equipment, crew training, maintenance of fire breaks, and archival of fire data.