Prescribed Fires

If you are looking for additional information about a burn near your residence or place of business, or have questions about prescribed fire for your property, please call our prescribed fire hotline at 815-495-5008.  

Leave a detailed message and the appropriate person will contact you regarding your question or concern.


Why do you burn natural areas?  

All of northern Illinois’s native ecosystems are fire adapted and require the reintroduction of fire for the benefit of flora and fauna.  That may sound complicated, but it essentially means that fire is as much a part of the region’s landscape as snow in the winter or rain in the spring.  Some plant species need their seeds to be charred or heated before they’ll germinate.  Additionally, almost all our native forb and grass species go dormant above ground each year.  This means that while they have roots that stay alive during the winter, the above ground portion of the plant dies each fall.  You can think of them like tulips, where the bulb remains underground to allow the plant to grow again each year.  A burn is just nature’s way of cleaning up after last year’s growth.  A burn removes dead plant material and darkens the soil, allowing it to warm up earlier in the spring.  This extra warmth extends the growing season by days or even weeks. The native plants (still alive below the surface) are ready to take advantage of this extra growing time.  Ashes and charred material have beneficial effects in the soil and are a major part of carbon sequestration in prairies.  Ever wonder why our soil is so dark?  The black or dark color of the soil is due mostly to the presence of large amounts of charred material from thousands of years of naturally occurring fires.  Many species of plants produce more flowers in the year immediately following a burn.  Populations of non-native plant species are often reduced by fire, which makes invasive species control much easier the following spring.

I live near a burn area and have [smoke sensitive medical condition]. What do I do?

If you know that the area will be burned by Pizzo and Associates, we ask that you call us and let us know your exact location and contact information.  With your location and information marked on our maps, we’ll be better able to tell you how much smoke you may experience on the day of the burn.  This will help you decide how to take the appropriate precautions.  The phone number to call is 1-815-495-5008.  If you have a minor condition like mild asthma, keep your windows closed and don’t go outside for the duration of the burn.  You can monitor the smoke and wind direction by looking out the window.  For some people, even the anticipation of smelling smoke can trigger an asthma attack.   If you are one of these people, or if you have a more severe respiratory condition, you may need to leave the area for the duration of the burn.  However, most people don’t even realize the burn has taken place, or are at work during burn hours.

Can’t you just mow it down instead of burning?

Not really.  The benefits of a burn are well understood, and while mowing does help in certain situations, it’s not nearly as effective as a burn.  Also, mowing more than an acre or two takes a lot more effort than a burn.  Material handling is also an issue; what do you do with all the plant materials aftewards?

How long does it take to get permits for burns?

It depends greatly on the location of the burn.  In Illinois, it can take a very long time to get permits.  It may take 90+ days (that’s more than three months) for the IEPA permit to arrive, and County and Local permits take additional time after that.   Applying for County and local permits requires a current and active IEPA permit, so we cannot apply for them until the IEPA permit arrives.

Is the fire dangerous?

All fire is dangerous. We recognize this danger and conduct our burns in the safest manner possible. Our crew-members have a healthy respect for fire, and it is treated as a tool used to accomplish specific ecological goals.  Burn Bosses at Pizzo & Assocaites are Illinois Certified Prescribed Burn Managers and all our crew-members have had National Wildfire Coordinating Group firefighting courses.  We have more Illinois Certified Prescribed Burn Managers than any other restoration company in Illinois.  If you see fire being applied by our crews near your residence or place of business, know that we have contacted the fire department beforehand and that they are ready to assist very quickly in the event that they are needed.  We generally don’t conduct burns on days when the flames would move too quickly for someone to simply walk away from them (even though they might look scary). When we are conducting a controlled burn, we have taken great pains to ensure that it has been permitted and approved by the proper regulatory agencies, as well as conducted in the safest manner possible.

How do you burn natural areas without burning down nearby houses?

In order to safely conduct a burn, we start by scheduling the burn based on weather forecasts.  Parameters such as Temperature, Humidity, Wind Direction, Wind Speed, Cloud Cover, Recent Precipitation and others help us determine what the likely fire behavior will be during the burn.   If fire behavior is predicted to be outside of safe parameters, we do not conduct the burn.  No, we’ve never burned down a house.

Did you ask permission to burn here?

Generally, no.  We don’t ask, we are asked.  Because of the costs of planning, insurance, equipment, and manpower required to conduct the burn, we must charge a fair price for a contract to burn.  If you’re asking whether we have coordinated with the local fire department prior to the burn, yes, we do contact and coordinate with the local fire departments as needed.

Doesn’t the fire kill all the animals?

No. Very rarely we will find a mouse, vole or rabbit that has been killed by a burn.  They’re generally smart enough to run away or hide deep underground, and the flames are generally small enough that they have no problems getting out before getting hurt.  All our native animals have a way of adapting to changing weather, and they have adaptations to the presence of fire as well.

How long does it take for the plants and flowers to grow back after a burn?

Native plants will re-grow in less time than if there had not been a burn.  The removal of the insulating layer of dead plant matter from the previous growing season combined with the darkening of the soil by ashes and charred material mean that the soil warms more quickly in the early spring, allowing plants to germinate earlier.  This early growth allows the growing season to be extended by as much as two or three weeks.

What if you damaged something of mine during burning?

If you have a plastic greenhouse or some other highly heat sensitive item near the burn area, call 1-815-495-5008, and leave a message with your address and a description of the item.  If you feel something was damaged during a burn please call 815-495-5008, and we will arrange for someone to meet you as soon as possible.