Prescribed Fire

Spring wildflower bloom following a prescribed burn at Chisholm Trail Park on 11 January 2024. Note the proximity that the burn occurred in relation to the surrounding neighborhood.


Prescribed burns are implemented when conditions will allow smoke to rise without impacting traffic or the surrounding community. Note the observer on the roof ensuring the smoke does not impact traffic flow.


PARD has an agreement with Tarrant County College (TCC) Wildland Fire Program to provide TCC students with live fire experience on our prescribed burns in exchange for free seats in their courses. This burn at the Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge provided training to firefighters from Coppell, Fort Worth, Kerrville, Montgomery County ESD#1, Pilot point, Lewisville, and Parker County ESD#1.


Prescribed burn at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens on 18 December 2023 included staff from PARD, Fort Worth Fire Department, and Tarrant Regional Water District.


Areas treated with prescribed fire can appear black for a short period after a burn. However, new growth providing resources to wildlife will quickly appear.


Prescribed fire is just as important to our forests as it is our prairies. This site had so much leaf litter accumulation from a lack of fire that the herbaceous vegetation disappeared over time.



The City of Fort Worth Park and Recreation Department uses prescribed fire to manage Natural Areas all across Fort Worth. Prescribed fire has many benefits to native plant and animal communities that cannot be achieved with other land management practices (e.g., mowing, herbicide). Prescribed fire is also the most cost-effective tool to improve natural areas.

Fort Worth has a long history of fire as seen in the figure below. This area historically burned every 1-3 years on average prior to settlement (~1850) according to research published in 2012. Lightning and Native Americans were responsible for starting pre-settlement fires. Native Americans used intentional fires to protect their camps from unintended fires, and also to attract hunted wildlife populations to lush new plant growth.

Historic Fire Frequency National Map.jpg

Click HERE to learn more about the research on the mean fire return interval in the United States.


Below are several Frequently Asked Questions pertaining to prescribed fire. Please let us know if you have additional questions about prescribed fire.



What is prescribed fire?

Prescribed fire is where a predetermined area is purposely burned under certain pre-planned conditions. Air temperature, relative humidity, fuel moisture, and wind speed and direction are some of the requirements that must be met before burning begins.

What exactly do you mean by “prescribed” fire?

A prescribed fire is an intentional fire planned and managed by fire specialists. A “prescription”, much like when a doctor prescribes a medicine, is developed to improve the health of a natural area. The prescription describes the conditions and procedures necessary to burn safely and effectively. City of Fort Worth’s Park and Recreation Department fire specialists consider weather, type of vegetation, terrain and fire behavior when writing a prescription. They define the boundary of the fire using natural barriers such as streams and lakes, or manmade features, such as roads and trails that are void of burnable materials. Finally, the team outlines the conditions under which the prescription can be used. When these conditions are met, the team is ready for action.

Why are prescribed fires used in our parks?

The ecosystems in our parks are fire-dependent, meaning the plants are evolved to need fire as a way to keep them healthy. In these ecosystems, fire helps maintain plant health and biodiversity. City of Fort Worth Park and Recreation Department uses carefully planned prescribed fire to safely restore and maintain this important ecological process. Prescribed fires do important work that pays dividends for decades. For example, they help maintain good habitat for all wildlife. Prescribed fire also helps control populations of insects and reduces the threat of wildfire to communities and neighboring lands by reducing hazardous accumulations of dead plant materials that fuel a fire.

Who conducts the burning?

Prescribed burns are conducted by a mix of staff from Park and Recreation Department, Fort Worth Fire Department, other surrounding fire departments and agencies, and even trained volunteers.

What about smoke?

We can’t eliminate smoke, but great efforts are taken to reduce smoke impacts. Fire specialists light prescribed fires only on days when prevailing winds will carry smoke away effectively. Depending on wind speed and direction and how well the smoke vents upward, smoke may be seen in the vicinity of the park. While prescribed fire permits some control over smoke, unpredicted changes in weather can affect how well smoke disperses. However, prescribed fires provide insurance against future larger wildfires and the smoke they produce. It’s a choice between some fire and smoke now or potentially a lot more later on.

How long has the Park and Recreation Department been using prescribed fire?

The Park and Recreation Department has been using prescribed fire as a tool since 1980.

How long will the area be black after a fire?

The short answer is: it depends. The time of a burn in relation to rainfall, soil temperature, relation to the growing season are all factors that determine how long it takes for plants to start growing again after they are burned.

Will the wildlife be hurt?

The wildlife will be displaced for a short time, then return to the area. Wildlife of all sizes have been observed re-entering an area as soon as a fire moves through. Habitat will be improved by the project that will result in healthier wildlife populations.

How can I become more aware of the schedule for your burns?

We try to post notifications in as many City of Fort Worth outlets as possible, including: Facebook, Instagram, X, City News, City Council Newsletters, Nextdoor, and Townsquare.

How long will the prescribed fire project last?

The length of a prescribed fire project can vary greatly depending on the size, type of plant community, and the complexity. Our burns could be as short as 20 minutes for small areas or they could take all day.

How do you decide where to do a prescribed burn?

We collect plant community information to determine areas with sensitive fire-dependent species or areas where invasive species need to be reduced. We also consider the time since an area was last burned as it relates to an area being at risk for a wildfire.

What is accomplished with a prescribed burn?

Objectives for prescribed burns include: Obtain diverse vegetation stands for wildlife habitat; reduce the risk and severity of catastrophic wildfires through reduction of hazard fuels; establish effective regeneration of vegetation which helps to lower the amount of damage from insect and disease; and reduce invasive species without the use of harmful pesticides.

Will I be able to visit the area during the burn?

Areas affected by prescribed burns and the anticipated smoke will be closed during implementation of the project. However, parks are public spaces and we try to leave areas open that will be safe to occupy during the burn. Visitors can spectate from safe locations if they wish.

Who do I contact if I have questions?

Call the Park and Recreation Department at: 817-392-5700 and ask to get in touch with the natural resource staff.