Prescribed Fire

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historical prescribe fire

Before European settlement in the west, lightning strikes and Native Americans frequently ignited fires in the Lake Tahoe Basin.  Historically, most of the area within the Tahoe Douglas Fire District would have experienced a low-intensity fire every 8-13 years. These fires typically consumed the pine needles, brush, and small trees, without causing the type of widespread devastation we commonly associate with wildland fires. 


zephyr crew's mission

Zephyr Crew Prescribe Fire

Prescribed fire is used as a fuel management tool and to mimic the historical fire regime. There are two types of prescribed fire activities seen within the Tahoe Basin:

  • Pile burning is used on sites where the topography makes it impractical to remove or chip the cut trees, slash, and/or brush.
  • Understory or broadcast burn. Low-intensity fire is allowed to burn across the burned plot.

Watch the Zephyr Fire Crew in action at a Park Prescribe Fire.






Prescribed fire has several benefits over other types of vegetation management. Prescribed fire creates fuel reduction treatments with longer maintenance intervals. Prescribed fire also stimulates new growth in the brush; this new growth is a valuable source of browse for animals such as deer. Prescribed fire also temporarily creates areas of bare soil. Bare soil is necessary for the regeneration of desirable tree species such as Jeffrey pine and sugar pine.  


prescribe fire plan

Zephyr Crew Photo 07 2017

All prescribed fires are conducted by carefully planned prescriptions. This prescription is documented in a burn plan. The burn plan describes desired outcomes such as the consumption of the material to be burned, the allowable amount of scorch in surrounding trees, and smoke impacts.

  • As a general rule, prescribed fires are usually conducted when there is some wind to aid in smoke dispersion.
  • The burn plan also provides a prescription for the allowable atmospheric conditions under which the prescribed fire can be conducted and fire control.
  • All fires are conducted under atmospheric conditions that will minimize the risk of the fire escaping containment.
  • The burn plan specifies what type of suppression resources will be present during the active burning.  
  • Prescribed fires are carefully monitored to ensure that all parameters of the prescription are met.


Zephyr Crew Overnight Burning

Overnight Burning

At times, the fire will be allowed to burn overnight. This is done to allow for the complete consumption of the materials. Depending upon the atmospheric conditions, the fire may not be staffed during the overnight hours. This is a frequent source of calls to the Fire District. At night, the fire from even a small burn pile looks large and ominous. Citizens are encouraged to consider atmospheric conditions and the presence of other mitigating factors such as snow on the ground prior to calling the Fire District.

Smoke Sensitivity

If you would like to be notified about planned prescribed fires in your neighborhood,
please call our office at 775.588.3591.

For a map of areas that prescribed fire is happening, visit TahoeLivingWithFire.

TAHOE DOUGLAS FIRETahoe Douglas Fire Protection District maltese crossPROTECTION DISTRICT
  • District Boundary

    TDFPD map