Fire is essential for healthy ecosystems. Many plant communities require fire to regenerate when exposed to heat and chemical properties found in smoke and ash. Santa Clara County Parks has recognized this need as well as the potential for catastrophic wildfires caused by severe conditions (weather and areas that have not seen fire for decades and fuel loading). As a result, the Parks Department has developed a successful partnership with CalFire (California Department of Forest and Fire Protection), San Jose Fire Department and other local fire agencies. This successful partnership has resulted in approximately 5,800 acres burned since 1997 under the Prescribe Burn Program.
The Parks Department uses prescribe fire to manage non-native vegetation, reduce fuel loading, promote biodiversity and native vegetation, and provide training in resource-type burns and wildfire firefighting. When the Department uses prescribe fire as a training tool for Park staff and local fire departments, there needs to be a resource benefit, typically invasive plant control or re-establishing natural fire regimes into the natural system.