Once the initial forest restoration steps have been completed, and the forest is ready for prescribed fire, now it’s time to organize the many fire professionals and equipment needed to safely conduct a prescribed burn.
The Burn Boss oversees all aspects of the prescribed fire, from writing the prescribed burn plan that describes every detail of when, where, why, and under what conditions the prescribed burn will be conducted, to organizing and leading all the personnel and equipment before, during, and after the prescribed fire to ensure the work is conducted in a safe and controlled manner that achieves the desired results.
The Burn Boss is also responsible for coordinating with local, state, and regional weather forecasters, air quality regulators, and smoke experts before and during the prescribed fire to ensure the work is conducted under specific temperature, wind, and humidity conditions to meet the objectives that are outlined in the prescribed burn plan and minimize smoke impacts in nearby communities.
Another important job of the Burn Boss is to help communicate with the public in the days and weeks leading up to the prescribed fire. This includes phone calls and meetings with adjacent landowners, schools, local community groups, event organizers, nearby homeowner associations, local public health authorities, and other members of the public to ensure local communities are informed about planned prescribed fires and can work together to minimize their impacts.
Working for the Burn Boss are the Firing Boss and Holding Boss, each leading a separate crew with very specific responsibilities on the prescribed fire. The Firing Boss manages the ignitions crew, a small team of fire professionals who use their knowledge of fire ecology and fire behavior to apply fire to the ground to achieve the desired intensity and effects as outlined in the prescribed fire prescription. The Holding Boss manages the holding crew, a larger team of fire professionals working on foot and on fire engines who are responsible for keeping the fire within the pre-designated prescribed fire unit along control lines, such as roads.
The Burn Boss, Firing Boss, and Holding Boss all utilize another important prescribed fire professional, the Fire Effects Monitor, who continually moves throughout the prescribed burn unit ahead of the ignitions crew monitoring and collecting data on real-time weather, fire behavior, and fire effects. The Fire Effects Monitor communicates this information to the Burn Boss, Firing Boss, and Holding Boss and suggests when changing conditions may warrant adjustments to how fire is being applied.