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Prescribed Burning Guidelines
in the Northern Great Plains


Methods of spreading fire in grasslands


Basic patterns of burning grasslands

Mobley et al (1977) presented in-depth descriptions and visual examples of several different patterns of applying fire:

  1. backing fire, Fig 15
  2. strip-head fire, Fig 16
  3. flank fire, Fig 14
  4. spot fire, Fig 17
  5. chevron burn, Fig 18
  6. center, surround, circular, or ring fire, Fig 19.

We offer no additional patterns of burning. We have found that most grassland burns of 130 ha (320 acres) or less can be burned with either backing fires or surround fires. The other four methods require more than one person to set lines of fire and are more practical to use on larger burns.

There are three situations in which there may be no need for a set burning pattern: (1) an island of cover surrounded by a large expanse of water, (2) an island of upland cover surrounded by a large expanse of barren-tilled land (Fig 20), and (3) islands of cover surrounded by large expanses of snow.

In any of these three situations, it may not matter where you start the fire as long as you have a planned exit route for yourself and smoke management is not a problem.

JPEG -- Backfire technique

JPEG -- Head fire technique

JPEG -- Spot fire technique

JPEG -- Chevron burn technique

JPEG -- Ring, Surround, or Circular technique

JPEG -- Burning an island


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