Preparing for a Burn Season

Property trained staff, the right equipment and advance planning are key to a successful and safe prescribed burn.

Training and personnel requirements

Though there are no state-wide minimum requirements for individuals participating in roadside burns, training opportunities are administered by the Iowa DNR that provide basic information for performing safe prescribed burns.

The minimum recommended training session is S130/190, which covers the basics of fire behavior and wildfire fighting techniques. This 40-hour course, combined with an annual eight-hour refresher, is adequate preparation to participate in a prescribed roadside burn. A combination of experience and additional training may be necessary to plan and lead a successful and safe burn.

Staff requirements for roadside burns vary with the conditions at each site; the size of the crew depends on the size and complexity of the burn. As a general rule, two to four qualified people can safely execute most roadside burns. Burning alone or understaffed is not advised, so it may be necessary to coordinate efforts with other agencies. Secondary road maintenance crews, county conservation boards, local fire departments, and other county IRVM programs are possible partners.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) standards vary among agencies, but some general guidelines should be considered.

Minimum suggested PPE

  • Leather work boots
  • Gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Clothing made of natural fibers

Roadside manager insights

Burning in the ROW can be dangerous, try to minimize smoke over the road and set up work zone flagging if necessary. 

-Joe Kooiker, Story County 2024

Prescribed Fire in the ROW can be difficult but is an important part of the roadside program. Roadside burning is a great tool and should be utilized. 

-Joe Kooiker, Story County 2024

Plan for the worst with water and equipment so you’re not under-prepared. Roadside burns can be challenging, but when done correctly, they’re not a big deal. It’s an accepted management practice that’s cheaper than spraying and cutting.

-Wes Gibbs, Jones County 2024

Stick with your burn plan. Even if you’ve spent a lot of time getting equipment and personnel to a burn site, if on that day conditions in the field do not meet your burn plan, DO NOT BURN. 

-Linn Reece, Hardin County, 2011

A small test burn at the anchor point will indicate fire and smoke behavior and the feasibility of continuing with the prescribed burn. 

-Jon Steege, Fayette County, 2011

We use strip head fires to speed up the burn without using a full-blown head fire. It works well with a smaller crew. 

-Jon Steege, Fayette County, 2011

Multi-use tanks and pumping systems should be thoroughly cleaned inside and out before being used for a new purpose. 

-Jon Steege, Fayette County, 2011

We try to vary burn seasons and intervals between burns so we aren’t adversely affecting any one set of desirable species. 

-Jim Uthe/James Devig, Dallas County