Natural Area Preservation

Controlled Burns

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​​​​​​​​​​​​ Volunteers and staff pose proud after a burn at Miller Nature Area.






The Spring 2016 Ecological Controlled Burn season starts Monday, February 29 and ends Friday, May 27. 

Natural Area Preservation (NAP), will be conducting controlled ecological burns in local natural areas as weather permits between February 29 and May 27. Burns are only done on weekdays between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. On the day of a controlled burn, signs will be posted around the park and staff will be available on site to answer questions. The fire will be under control at all times.​ Please contact NAP at 734.794.6627 or with any questions.

​Where will we burn?

During the Spring 2016 Controlled Burn Season, NAP has permits to conduct burns in the following city-owned parks: Argo Nature Area, Bandemer Park, Barton Nature Area, Belize Park, Bird Hills Nature Area, Bluffs Nature Area, Briarcliff Rain Garden, Buhr Park, Dhu Varren Nature Area, Dolph Nature Area, Foster Nature Area, Fuller Park, Furstenberg Nature Area, Glacier Highlands Park, Hunt Park, Huron Hills Golf Course, Huron Parkway Median, Kuebler Langford Nature Area, Leslie Park Golf Course, Marshall Nature Area, Miller Nature Area, Oakridge Nature Area, Olson Park, Ruthven Nature Area, Scarlett-Mitchell Nature Area, South Pond Nature Area, Sugarbush Park, West Park.

For more information about our burn program, please join us at the

Controlled Ecological Burn Public Meeting
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Natural Area Preservation Office
3875 East Huron River Drive
7 to 8:30 pm
This meeting will include a presentation and discussion about the Controlled Ecological Burn Program. Ask questions, learn more about benefits of burning, and hear about the specifics of effectively and safely using fire as a restoration tool.

We are also recruiting volunteers to join our Burn Crew! Training is on Wednesday, February 24, noon to 5 p.m. Volunteers are strongly encouraged to attend the public meeting as well. Contact NAP at 734.794.6627 or for more information and to register.

​​​Why Burn?​

Our native Ann Arbor ecosystems are fire-dependent. Until settlers began suppressing fires in the early 1700s, fire enriched the soil and removed dead thatch, allowing diverse native plant and animal communities to thrive. Continued fire suppression has disrupted the natural balance and allowed fire-intolerant, non-native plant species to out-compete the native, fire-adapted plants. By reintroducing fire in our parks, we are reinstating an essential ecosystem process.

Are Burn​s Safe?

For People

Burn breakThe burn is conducted by well-equipped, fully-trained staff and volunteers. The local fire department is notified before each burn, and cell phones and two-way radios are carried by staff conducting a burn. If anything unexpected were to occur, staff would respond immediately. Plenty of portable water tanks and a water truck are present at each burn site. Each area to be burned is also surrounded by a non-combustible strip of ground, called a “burn break,” which contains the fire.

Controlled burns produce some smoke, which contains water vapor, carbon dioxide,Smoke visible during a burn other chemicals, and particulate matter. In general, emissions from burns are significantly less than those produced from mowing a comparably-sized site, but steps are taken to minimize the amount of public exposure to what little smoke is produced. Although a burst of smoke does quickly return carbon to the atmosphere, research suggests that by stimulating the accelerated growth of vegetation, prescribed burns may actually increase the amount of carbon sequestered over the long-term.

For Animals

During the burn, most animals retreat to burrows or move to surrounding areas, as only a portion of the park is burned. Smaller animals need only be half an inch underground to avoid the heat of the fire. Animal habitat is generally improved as a result of fire in sites we burn – stimulating a diverse, healthy natural community. NAP also conducts annual breeding bird, salamander, and frog and toad surveys to monitor the effects of burns and other restoration activities on animal populations.

How Quickly Do Areas Recover?

Burned areas re-green very rapidly. Solar heat absorbed by the blackened surface warms the soil, and plants respond by vigorously sprouting and sending up shoots. This is one of the many ecological benefits of prescribed burning. It is amazing to visit these areas periodically after a burn and witness the fast rate of new plant growth. Below is a series of photographs taken in 2009 of the prairie in front of the Leslie Science and Nature Center on Traver Road.

Day of burn   Day of burn (March 18)

 Nine days after the burn (March 27)   9 days after a burn

5 weeks after the burn  Five weeks after the burn (April 21)

Ten weeks after the burn (May 28)  10 weeks after the burn

6 months after the burn Six months after the burn (Sept 1)

​How do we plan the burns?

NAP staff assess each site and develop a burn plan that provides information on the specific ecological objectives of the burn, preferred weather conditions to meet those objectives and minimize smoke, the ignition pattern, locations of burn breaks to safely contain the fire, equipment, contingency plans, and emergency phone numbers. Detailed maps are prepared showing areas targeted for burns, where burn breaks will be located, and neighborhoods in which people might see or smell smoke. City and Township Fire Marshals review the plans before issuing the necessary permits.  We wait until weather conditions are within the range specified in the burn plan before proceeding. Burns are planned each winter for the upcoming spring, and in summer for the upcoming fall. Park neighbors are notified in advance by mail that a controlled b​urn is planned and are given an opportunity to discuss concerns at a public burn meeting. 

For a printable factsheet with this information, view our Controlled Ecological Burn Factsheet (pdf).

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Contact Information
3875 E. Huron River Drive​
David Borneman, Deputy Manager - Volunteerism and Natural Area Preservation​
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