Seal of Dane County County of Dane

Prescribed Burns

Many ecosystems in Wisconsin rely upon regular fire to hinder invasive plant encroachment and stimulate growth of native plants. It is the most effective and efficient tool in a land manager’s tool box, but also a practice that is undertaken with the utmost seriousness for control and safety. Volunteers must have good communication skills and the ability to follow exact directions. Volunteers fill several roles depending on the burn unit and staff availability, including:

  • Ignition: use a drip torch to light fire
  • Suppression: use hand tools or a water UTV to put fire out
  • Mop-up: help to clean up after a burn. All fire must be completely out at the end of a burn

Details & Requirements

  • Volunteers must be able to walk over uneven terrain. Our burn units can sometimes be hilly and strenuous. 
  • Volunteers must be able to handle strenuous and potentially uncomfortable situations, such as smoke, heat, sun exposure, and extended periods of walking.
  • Bathroom availability varies by park. View our Open Restrooms webpage for more information. If there is no bathroom at a burn site, either use one before arriving at a burn or ask staff to suggest a nearby public location.

The following will be required by 2025:

Volunteers must have or obtain:


  • Attend a WIDNR Fire Department Wildland Training for Cooperative Areas (sessions hosted yearly by Dane County Parks).

Other equivalent baseline trainings may be considered but must be approved by Natural Areas staff.

All burn volunteers must go through an annual fire refresher hosted prior to burn season each year.

Adult (18+) volunteers only.

Most prescribed burns occur in the early spring (March-May), but fall and even summer burns are possible.

  • Notices are only sent out to registered volunteers on our prescribed burn list.
  • Starting in 2025, burn notices will only be sent out to volunteers who have met our required trainings. 

Any volunteer looking to join Dane County Parks on a prescribed burn must attend an Annual Refresher at the beginning of burn season (usually in March), where we review the below information and much more. 

What to Bring:

  • Volunteers should bring their own water. We provide bottled water as a backup.
  • Volunteers should bring a lunch and snacks as prescribed burn timing is variable (and calorie intensive). 
  • Volunteers should bring leather work gloves and eye protection. We can provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as a backup. 
  • Having a small backpack to keep your things in is recommended. Bags can be sometimes be stowed in a water ATV on a burn line. 

What to Wear:

  • Wear “fire safe” clothing made of natural fibers that will not melt (cotton, wool, etc.), wear leather work boots, and a ball cap or hat to protect your head/hair. Keep an eye on the weather and wear layers.  
    • Staff provide fire-resistant Nomex jumpsuits for volunteers to wear over their clothing if they prefer. Staff also provide radio harnesses and radios, as all volunteers wear a radio for communication purposes.
    • Staff provide hard hats during woodland burns. 




Dane County Parks Volunteer Program 
(608) 516-3703