Skip to main content

Developed and maintained
by the NFCC

Control measure

Controlled burning: Environmental considerations

Control measure knowledge

If controlled burning is being used as part of the tactical plan for a fire-related incident, the short-term and long-term environmental impacts on air, land and water quality should be considered. Some environmental impacts may not be immediately evident and may take years to recover from. For more information refer to Foundation for environmental protection - Controlled burn.

To minimise the environmental damage, it may be possible to restrict controlled burning to some stages of the fire. For more information refer to Foundation for environmental protection - Sites and locations where a controlled burn may be employed.

It may be inappropriate for controlled burning to be carried out near to sensitive sites, due to the potential environmental impacts, including:

  • Ecological or heritage assets
  • Water supplies, such as reservoirs or water treatment plants
  • Buildings containing vulnerable populations, such as hospitals, schools or residential homes

Site visits may identify situations and locations where a controlled burn:

  • Is the preferred tactical option
  • Should not be employed

Due to the potential environmental impact, the decision to adopt a controlled burning strategy should be made following consultation with relevant organisations, including:

  • Environmental agencies
  • Nature conservation bodies
  • Public health organisations
  • Local authority
  • Water suppliers
  • Sewerage undertakers

If public health could be affected by air pollution, it may be necessary to inform the public by using the media or other methods. They may need to be evacuated or take shelter from the environmental impacts of controlled burning.

Monitoring of the environmental impacts, especially to air quality and water supplies, may need to be put in place. Monitoring may need to extend to the post-incident phase and may involve the use of an air quality cell, hazardous materials advisers (HMAs) or other specialists.

 

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Use site visits to identify situations and locations either where a controlled burn is the preferred tactical option or should not be employed

  • Establish arrangements for relevant organisations to be informed about the need for controlled burning at a fire-related incident 

  • Establish arrangements for the public to be informed and advised about controlled burning at a fire-related incident 

  • Establish arrangements with appropriate specialists for monitoring the environmental impacts of controlled burning

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • Consider the short-term and long-term environmental impacts of carrying out controlled burning

  • Consider restricting controlled burning to some stages of the fire, to minimise the environmental damage

  • Consider avoiding the use of controlled burning near to sensitive locations

  • Ensure the decision to carry out controlled burning is made following consultation with relevant organisations

  • Arrange for the public to be informed about controlled burning if required

  • Arrange for the public to be evacuated or advised to shelter from the environmental impacts of controlled burning if required

  • Consider putting monitoring of environmental impacts in place during and after controlled burning