Last year, landowners and agencies applied prescribed fires to 222,375 acres across Arkansas.

Forestry and conservation agencies across the state commonly use prescribed fire as a management tool during the months of February to April, when weather conditions allow.

“Prescribed fire achieves many management goals, including enhanced wildlife habitat, improved wildfire safety and site preparation for new growth,” an Arkansas Agriculture Department news release states.

Reduction of hazardous fuel, wildlife habitat improvement, planting and regeneration, vegetation control and ecosystem restoration are some of the benefits listed in an Arkansas Forestry Commission fact sheet at www.aad.arkansas.gov.

"Prescribed fire is a valuable management tool to keep forests and grasslands healthy," said State Forester Joe Fox. "Prescribed fires are slow-moving, and low to the ground. Prescribed fire is well planned, and executed for specific landowner goals.”

Also known as "control burns," these strategically planned and carefully managed fires make a landscape more resistant to out-of-control wildfires by removing flammable debris and vegetation, as well as "ladder fuels" like branches and leaves that transfer flames upward, the fact sheet points out.

February to April and September to October are the best seasons to use prescribed fire, because vegetation is dormant. Burn crews carefully monitor weather factors to select days when wind speeds are low (less than 15 mph) and humidity levels are moderate (above 35 percent) to allow for safe burning conditions that accomplish specific management goals for forests and grassland.

However, weather during these periods can change quickly to create high wildfire danger — when humidity drops and wind speeds increase. Fire crews and landowners must monitor conditions closely at all times, and never leave fires unattended.