OSU Extension Office Recommendation
As we enter the mid-summer period, it is time to start thinking about prescribed fire again. Most landowners stop burning during April-June either because conditions are not as conducive to burning (frequent rain and wet vegetation) or to minimize impacts to wildlife such as ground nesting birds, deer fawns, rabbits, and reptiles.
July-September is an excellent time to start burning again to help meet multiple land management objectives.
Summer fires are often safer than dormant season fires. This is due to stable weather, light winds, and high water content in the vegetation which slows the rate of fire spread. So, if fire escapes are a concern, consider burning during the summer. Woody plant control can also be effective with summer fires. Slow moving fires have plenty of time to heat up the cambium (inner bark) of trees. This combined with the higher ambient temperatures of summer means that often you can get good top-kill of small trees and shrubs.
Also, while plant response if highly variable between years and locations, we often see an increased desirable forb response following late summer fire as opposed to late winter fires. Therefore, if you have wildlife objectives, burning during the late summer can be effective to increase wildlife food resources. Another reason to burn during mid-summer is to improve forage for livestock. Typically, forage quality on native grass starts to decline in July. By burning at this time, forage quality can be dramatically improved for livestock assuming that adequate moisture is present. Due to the unpredictability of late summer rainfall, hedge your forage and only burn a portion of your land or pastures in case of drought.
Burning during the summer does have some drawbacks. It is often hot and can be uncomfortable and potentially dangerous to the people tending the fire. Be sure to provide plenty of water and have vehicles running with AC to provide a cool shelter. Also, summer fires tend to produce more smoke due to the high levels of water vapor. This should be considered carefully as the smoke can cause safety issues with nearby roads. While summer fires are usually safer, this is not always the case. We sometimes have extended summer droughts when fire danger is high.
Therefore, check on local wildlife risk and potential burn bans.
A good resource for conducting summer prescribed fire is the fact sheet “Burning in the Growing Season” available at https://extension.okstate.edu/fact-sheets/burning-in-the-growing-season.html. Also, be sure to use the OK-FIRE website to help plan your burn https://www.mesonet.org/index.php/okfire/home.