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Prescribed Burning FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions


Sunshine, blue sky, smoke plume from hill, lens flare.


Q. Why does MBARD allow any burning? 

A. California Air Districts, by state law, are not allowed to prohibit prescribed burning. Land Managers such as CAL FIRE or California State Parks plan and ignite controlled burns.


Q. What is MBARD’s role for prescribed burning?

A. California Air Districts reasonably regulate prescribed burning. If burns are over 10 acres or emit more than 1 ton of particulate matter, Land Managers submit a detailed prescription for the proposed burn, which must be approved by MBARD. Within a few days before the planned ignition, MBARD communicates with the Land Manager about weather conditions so the Land Manager can prevent smoke impacts to populated areas (or crops). For example, MBARD worked successfully with CAL FIRE BEU to limit a controlled burn in the Fall of 2023. CAL FIRE burned 84 acres instead of the proposed 500, because weather conditions might have otherwise created smoke impacts in the Salinas Valley.


Q. Instead of burning, why don’t they masticate material or use goats to clear vegetation?

A. Land managers often use alternative methods instead of burning vegetation. Certain conditions prohibit use of heavy equipment or goats, such as steep terrain, heavy fuels (like downed trees), or sensitive habitat like streams or those with endangered species. Sometimes a Land Manager’s goal is to restore fire-adapted vegetation, requiring fire.


Q. What is AQI and how can I look up air quality?

A. AQI (Air Quality Index) describes the health concern if exposed to smoke at certain levels for 24 hours.


Q. What can I do to prevent or clear indoor smoke?

A. Its most effective to begin smoke-proofing your home from the outside and then moving indoors. Recommendations to prevent smoke from entering your home include shutting doors and windows and setting your ventilation system to “recirculate” (instead of “fresh air”). If you have a fireplace, you can stop using it, close the damper and block the vents. Another recommendation is to clear the indoor air in your home with an air cleaner. Make sure the air cleaner you purchase does not create ozone, which is a pollutant! Here’s a Comprehensive Guide to Air Cleaners  or you can make your own DIY Air Cleaner. Are you handy? Here is a Comprehensive How-To toward protecting structures from smoke during wildfire events. 


Q. How can I find out when and where there will be prescribed burning?

A. Check MBARD's Active Prescribed Burns webpage. Prescribed burns are usually conducted in Spring and Fall. The Smoke Spotter app is an interactive tool showing controlled burns, wildfires and air quality in real time.

Also see the California Prescribed Fire Information Report System (PFIRS) website. You can select Start Date and End Date to find information on controlled burns that are in progress or planned a few days in advance.

Here is a map of current prescribed burns throughout California.