Grasslands have supported a broad array of life over the millennia. Not only have they supported rich biodiversity, but also they shaped the region’s stream flow and groundwater hydrology, contributed to carbon sequestration, and offered many environmental benefits. Additionally, grasslands have provided the basis for agricultural and livestock production.
Most of the world’s grasslands evolved with fire, whether ignited by lightning or people. For millennia, flames burned regularly though small patches and vast stretches of prairie landscapes, restoring and sustaining an enormous variety of native grassland plants.
Prescribed fire liability standards vary from state to state and legal terms can sometimes be confusing. This fact sheet describes the different standards of care applied in prescribed burning‐related lawsuits.
Resistance to the use of prescribed fire is strong among many private land managers despite the advantages it offers for maintaining fire-prone ecosystems. Often, managers who are aware of the benefits of using prescribed fire as a management tool avoid using it because of fear of liability for damages that may result from an escaped fire or smoke.
The varied regions of the Great Plains share a history of fire, for example, the mixed‐grass prairies of the Dakotas, tallgrass prairie of Kansas, and cross timbers of Texas all evolved with periodic burning.
Conducting planned burns and lighting unplanned fires carries some inherent risk for injury. Even though firefighters train and plan in an effort to reduce risks on the fireline, accidents still happen.