John O’Donnell

As outlined in NC State University (2022) Prescribed Burn Associations, 7 January:

A Prescribed Burn Association (PBA) is a group of landowners and other interested citizens that form a partnership to conduct prescribed burns. Association members pool their knowledge, time, resources and equipment to help other people in their association conduct prescribed burns. No two PBAs operate or function exactly the same, but a main goal is to use fire safely and effectively.

More than 130 PBAs are now found in 18 states across the U.S., depicted on this map.

Some states and individual PBAs have their own websites, such as:  Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida’s Northwest Florida and North Florida, Georgia’s Chattahoochee Fall Line Prescribed Fire Cooperative and Southwest Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina Sandhills, NC Piedmont, NC Southern Blue Ridge, NC Triangle, Oklahoma, and Texas.

In addition to the information provided on the above PBA websites, numerous resources and opportunities are available. Some of these are provided below:

  • Resources for PBA Coordinators/Leadership;
  • Educational Opportunities including e-FIRE – An interactive video course designed for landowners and those new to prescribed fire to learn how to plan, conduct, and evaluate a burn; Online courses – The online “Introduction to Southeast Prescribed Fire” course can be found at (search term: prescribed fire): and Certified Burner Courses; and
  • Mobile Apps including GroupMe App (useful to connect with many people about the burn by only sending a single message); RxBurn Tracker (helps you monitor the long-term effects of burning by storing basic information about a prescribed fire and take pre- and post-burn photos from exactly the same spot over time); and Smoke Management Pocket Guide (has 12 basic smoke management guidelines to keep in mind, and a fuel calculator to determine how much available fuel is in your burn unit).
  • There are resources for those wanting to form a PBA including Fact Sheets on The Value of Forming a PBA (2016); Prescribed Burn Associations (2015) and also videos.
  • Other information including webinars, podcasts, brochures, equipment, newsletters, template burn plans, checklists and publications.

Further detail is found in the attached link:

Southwest Georgia PBA

Detail in relation to prescribed burning in one of the US PBA’s is outlined in an article by Ashira Morris (2024) Private Landowners Are the Missing Link for Prescribed Burns.  Community organizations teach individuals to manage their land with fire in states like Georgia, where 93 percent of the land is privately owned Sierra February 20, 2024 and is highlighted in the attached link:

The Southwest Georgia PBA officially launched in January 2023. Anyone who owns property in the service area, which covers 18 counties in one of the most rural parts of the United States, is eligible to join. The 80 current members get access to the PBA’s network and their knowledge, as well as workshops on related topics and shared tools such as the Burn Trailer, which comes stocked with everything needed to safely start and clean up a prescribed fire.


The benefits of prescribed fire—the controlled, intentional application of fire to a specific area—are wide-ranging. Most landscapes on earth regularly burned in the past, and many have plant and animal species that depend on fire to thrive. Before humans, lightning strikes would spark fires. Then, Indigenous people set controlled burns. But by the early 1900s, the recently created United States Forest Service labeled fire as a threat, and suppression became national policy. Without routine fire, though, the landscape changes: Species that don’t depend on fire replace the ones that do. There is also an accumulation of “fuels”: plant matter that can easily catch and spark a much larger, more catastrophic burn like the recent fires in the western United States and Canada. 

Reid approaches burns on the property like a massive checkerboard, working in alternating small sections. The difference between the recently burned plots and ones that haven’t seen fire in years is striking. In the burned acres, the thin green crowns of pines make up the overstory, the highest canopy of foliage, with tall silver plume grass swaying below. It’s easy for people to walk among the trees; so can turkeys, deer, quail, and other local wildlife.

The plots that haven’t been burned are inaccessible. They are overgrown with plant life, full of fire-resistant oaks, sweet gum trees, and brambles. Reid calls these areas “the jungle.” They’ll get a controlled burn soon, but Reid won’t take care of them alone—they’ll be the setting for a Southwest Georgia PBA “learn to burn” event. 

“One of the biggest problems facing this forest is lack of communication,” Reid says. So one of his primary goals with the PBA is to get neighbors talking to one another. At the event, members will come out to his property and get hands-on experience carrying a drip torch and starting a fire. They’ll also learn key information such as determining when to start a burn and how to mop up after it’s complete.


Prescribed burn associations originated in the Great Plains in the 1990s, when neighbors came together to burn swaths of rangeland for agriculture and to control invasive species. The first ones were established in Nebraska, Texas, and Oklahoma and quickly expanded in the region as landowners realized that sharing equipment, labor, and training opportunities helped them overcome challenges in managing their land.


“They all have a common goal, and they all realize that more fire is needed on private lands—and that they have the ability to do that,” she says.

Some PBAs are networked at the state level, such as those in California, or at the regional level, as in the Great Plains.

The information provided highlights a valuable can-do approach that could be used across Australia.

Opportunities for Australia

There are apparent opportunities to increase low intensity burning and mechanical treatment operations across private lands, noting a level of 4,270 hectares treated across NSW in 2022/ 23.  Using a forest area of 6,937,308 hectares of private lands, this represents 0.06 % of forest area treated per year.  There are major apparent opportunities for cooperative fuel reduction and maintenance programs between private landholders and government.  There are also apparent opportunities to increase low intensity burning and mechanical treatment operations by local government, noting a level of 4,254 hectares by NSW local in 2022/23.  This had increased from 2021/ 22.

The author considers that prescribed burning associations provide big opportunities for Australia, including freehold and leasehold lands, but also potentially state and local government lands as well.  Communities, infrastructure and plantations could also benefit from these approaches, addressing prescribed burning across landscapes to reduce long bushfire run risks and also firebrand risks.  There are huge opportunities to work cooperatively in prescribed burning planning and implementation, sharing human resources and equipment.

Opportunities for prescribed burning associations for Australia
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