Environmental benefits of controlled burns are numerous and well-established:
- They help balance the need for herbicide usage in controlling
unwanted invasive species such as Chinese tallow, Johnson grass and
Macartney rose. If left unchecked, these invasives can choke out beneficial
prairie grasses and other native vegetation.
- They promote the germination of certain species – such as
certain types of native wildflowers, grasses and forbs – by helping to
release and disperse dormant seed pods.
- By-products of the controlled burn provide important nutrients
for native plants.
- They produce healthier, more diverse and open habitat for
Controlled burns must be carefully planned and timed to minimize
risks to residents and property. Prior to any burn-related activities, the
Flood Control District’s
state-certified burn management consultants will notify all required regulatory
agencies, including the Texas Forest Service, Harris County Emergency Dispatch,
and local fire departments.
Controlled burns are conducted subject to weather conditions,
including humidity and wind speed. The “80-20-20 rule” is often used for
choosing a burn date: Temperatures of less than 80 degrees, humidity of more
than 20 percent and wind speeds of less than 20 m.p.h.
The fires are lit by hand, and controlled through a series of fire
breaks or nonflammable barriers, as well as by choosing weather conditions that
naturally help control the prescribed burn.
Controlled burns are a benefit to native plants and animals that have adapted to fire.
Prairie grasses, for example, which developed in ecosystems mostly lacking in
trees and subject to frequent wildfires caused by lightning strikes, developed
deep roots and the ability to regenerate from those roots. Birds and other
small wildlife that are native to prairie habitat instinctively run, fly or
seek shelter to escape danger. Wildlife returns quickly to the site of the
controlled burn as it regenerates with native species and improved overall