Glossary of Fire Terms

Photo Credit: Ann Liles

Frequently used terms in prescribed and wildfires

Backing fire: fire burning against the wind, resulting in a relatively cool, slow-moving fire with low flame height.

Burn Boss: person trained in application of prescribed fire who will be in charge of planning and executing a prescribed burn. Differnent agencies have different training requirements for burn bosses reflecting agency policy. Most burn bosses are trained and certified as “NC Prescribed Burners”.

Burn Plan/Prescribed Fire Plan: a written plan for applying prescribed fire to a tract of land; should include: the purpose and objectives; a map of the area to be burned; lists of equipment and personnel (including specific duties assigned to each person) that will be needed on site; ranges of desired conditions (temperature, wind speed, humidity); fuel loads; overstory and understory type; firing techniques that will be used; season & time of day; preparations; notification numbers; smoke sensitive areas with distances to each; control & mop-up procedures; and evaluation.

Certified NC Prescribed Burner: A prescribed burner who has completed the training and certification described in NC Burn Act. For detail see certification click the headline tab and or go the NC Burn Act descrption below.

Drip torch: hand-held canister used to ignite fire.

Fire behavior: the manner in which a fire reacts to fuel, weather, and topography.

Fire break (fuel break): any natural or constructed barrier to prevent fire spread (e.g. roads, streams or plowed lines).

Fire dependence/Fire dependent species: animals and plants that require regular exposure to fire for their survival.

Fire regime: the frequency of fire occurrence, fire intensity, and the amount of fuel consumed.

Fuel load: the amount of combustible material that is found in an area.

Prescribed burning (prescribed fire – controlled burn): planned use of fire set under predetermined weather and fuel parameters to obtain specific management objectives; also known as “controlled” burning.

Smoke management: guidelines used to maximize smoke dispersal away from smoke-sensitive areas.

North Carolina Prescribed Burn Act: legislation passed in 1999 that establishes the importance of fire as a management tool in North Carolina; this Act (GS 133-6) gives prescribed burners that are certified by the state Division of Forest Resources limited liability protection from smoke if certain procedures are followed. For details see the NC Prescribed Burn Act.

Wildfire: any unplanned fire occurring on wildlands.

Wildland/Urban Interface (WUI): areas where human communities are built in close proximity to wildlands and the flammable fuels found in them. NC has 12.8 million acres of WUI, the record in the U.S.

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