This fire was intentionally lit during a prescribed burn on the Rau Waterfowl Production Area of the Sand Lake Wetland Management District of South Dakota. Prairie ecosystems and plants adapted with the frequent wildfires before human settlement, and they are an important part of maintaining good habitat. They remove excess litter and dead plant growth, opening up the canopy for new seedlings; they stimulate the growth of native plants, and they set back the invasion of non-native grasses and some weeds. The ash from a fire also adds nutrients for new plant growth. The fire in this photo was lit from the downwind side, so it is described as "backing". It is slowly burning into the wind and has shorter flame lengths compared to its opposite--a head fire.
Photo Credit: Krista Lundgren/USFWS