Controlled burn is planned for September 14 at Rocky Prairie Natural Area Preserve

Mima Mounds NAP
Firefighter lights a controlled burn line across an area of Mima Mounds in 2009. Photo: Birdie Davenport/DNR.

Beginning September 14, if wind conditions are favorable, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) may conduct a controlled burn at Rocky Prairie Natural Area Preserve or Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve. The project may be moved to the end of the week or later this fall if weather conditions do not allow for safe burning.

Why burn?

Fire has played an integral role in the development and maintenance of prairies and oak woodlands in the Puget Sound lowlands. Fire promotes the growth of native prairie plant species and reduces thatch and shrubs in these rare grassland ecosystems. Planned burns are part of a larger effort to restore native prairie grasslands in western Washington. Controlled burns are a safe and cost-effective way to restore natural conditions. Burns are conducted when weather conditions allow for safe burning and the least impact of smoke on nearby residents.

Will firefighters be present during the burn?
Yes, firefighters will be present during the burn. Firefighters will use fire engines and other fire suppression techniques to prevent the burn from spreading. DNR and the Center for Natural Lands Management, a partner with DNR in westside prairie restoration, both have considerable experience with prescribed fire.

What about the burn ban?
Even with the burn ban still in place, DNR has approved this prescribed fire for ecological purposes. This prescribed burn is an integral part of efforts to restore the site and will be conducted in compliance with prescribed burning regulations.

Where will the prescribed burn take place?
Rocky Prairie Natural Area Preserve is five miles south of Tumwater, along Old Highway 99, and protects one of the best examples of native Puget prairie grassland as well one of the last remaining populations of golden paintbrush, a federally-threatened plant species that thrives in healthy prairie habitat.

Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve is two miles west of Littlerock, off Waddell Creek Road, and protects the best remaining example of the unique Mima Mounds–one of the largest remaining areas of native Puget prairie grassland.

DNR-managed natural areas – a significant statewide system of natural resources conservation areas and natural area preserves totaling more than 150,000 acres – protect native ecosystems and the plant and animal species that depend on them.

Do you have other questions or concerns about controlled burning? Contact David Wilderman, natural areas program ecologist for DNR’s Natural Areas Program, at (360) 902-1556.